Today is July 4; in America, it is Independence Day. The nominal birthday of my home.
I’m not proud to be American. I’m thankful to be American.
I was raised to believe in America. In the freedoms it offers to all people, in the opportunities she represents. Not perfect by any stretch, but slowly making progress towards the ideals set out in the Declaration — that all men were created equal, that they had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In the last three-plus years, we have seen the progress that so many have fought, bled, and died for set back by those who would justify hatred with religion, conflate virtue with wealth, and demonize the “other.” They claim to care about America, but embrace none of the values she is supposed to represent: equality, opportunity, compassion, justice for ALL, regardless of faith, ethnic background, gender identity, or any other factor.
As I told another recently, it’s easy to look around right now and be depressed. To be saddened and ashamed of what we’ve become. I choose to celebrate this day not what this country has become, but rather what it has been and can be again. Every day, buried among the horror and blusterings of the MAGA’s, there are stories of people doing good. Small acts of kindness, of courage, of doing what is right despite what is going on around them. Welcoming those who come for aid, for a new life, just as our forefathers did.
“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”Gandalf, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
So today, I celebrate those people. I celebrate my fellow Americans who choose to stand up to the forces of tyranny, hatred, oppression, and unbounded greed. I celebrate the America that Mr. Rogers (Fred or Steve) knew and believed we could be and should be. It’s not dead yet; every time a grandmother threatens to make someone “internet famous” for being a racist troll, every time someone stands up and refuses to give in to racism, sexism, or any other form of evil, hope is there. We must take that hope given to us by our fellow Americans and use it to inspire ourselves, to remind us that these people are the real Americans, that they are out there, and we can and must stand by their sides against those who would pervert the American dream.
It was hope that led our forefathers to cross the Atlantic in search of a better way. It was that same hope that led my great-grandparents to do likewise hundreds of years later. And it is that same hope, paired with action, that will bring us out of these dark times.
So today, don’t wrap yourself up in the flag and claim patriotism. That is Nationalism.
Embrace what that flag represents — “one nation, under God, indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for ALL.”