When it comes to patriotism, I'm conflicted.
I love my country. I love the opportunities I've enjoyed because I was born and raised here in the USA. I feel blessed to have an education courtesy of my countrymen who pay their taxes. America is beautiful... You know, purple mountains majesty and spacious skies and shining seas. I was born with privileges and rights that others yearn for their whole lives. I have the freedom to criticize government if I want to.
If being patriotic means showing gratitude for these blessings of being born where I was, then I'm a patriot. However I worry sometimes that our outward acts of patriotism make others wonder if we condone all the hateful, selfish, and irresponsible things that our government has done in the name of freedom, especially to people of foreign nations. I'm so ashamed of the errors that some imperfect and misguided leaders of my country's government have made and are making.
I want to be careful that in my gratitude for the good things that my country has provided to me, I don't show insensitivity, disrespect, or indifference to those who have been seriously hurt by the unwise or corrupt choices that my government has made. Americans have done wonderful things across the world, but we've also been behind disgusting schemes, and selfish mistakes which have infringed on the rights of fellow human beings.
Today we're celebrating Independence Day. We happily commemorate declaring independence from the oppressive government of Great Britain. Thanks to our founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence was a major statement on human rights:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
I love what Howard Zinn, an American historian and author, had to say on the subject:
“Today everybody is talking about the fact that we live in one world; because of globalization, we are all part of the same planet. They talk that way, but do they mean it? We should remind them that the words of the Declaration [of Independence] apply not only to people in this country, but also to people all over the world. People everywhere have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the government becomes destructive of that, then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticize - to do what we always praise and call heroic when we look upon the dissenters and critics in totalitarian countries who dare to speak out.”
― Howard Zinn, Artists In Times of War and Other Essays
and this quote by the same wise man:
“What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor--inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing--permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children, indeed our children.”
― Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present
On the subject of war, can I go all hippy on you? Or have I already done so?
“All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers... Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”
― François Fénelon (French Roman Catholic Archibishop, brave writer, defender of human rights)
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.”
― Mark Twain
As I'm enjoying my barbecue and fireworks tonight, my pride in my country will be limited by the pain it's caused others. I'm not personally accountable for America's past, but I am for its future. While I'm not always proud of where we've been as a country, I'm grateful for what we have and for those who have sacrificed to give us those blessings. Let's share our good fortune with our world family, not just with our countrymen.
“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”
― Barack Obama