Posts Tagged With: Patriotism

Some Thoughts on the 4th:


I get a little nutty about the 4th of July.  I have a tricorn hat I bought in Concord, MA that I drag out specifically for the 4th every year.  I have a ’76 flag that I run up, and this year we added a host of bunting to the front of the garage.  Every time there is a Sousa song, I cheer.  I ALWAYS sing along to Stars and Stripes Forever.  Put a sparkler in my hands and let me run free, and I’m the happiest lady ever.

I’ve been seeing all these things online this year, though, that make it seem like celebrating the 4th when this country needs so much  improvement is somehow blasphemous.  Or silly.  Or just not right somehow.  Like if you want to do it, especially if you’re going balls-to-the-wall, you’re what’s wrong with escapist America.

I consider myself a realist when it comes to things.  I don’t want to bury my head in the sand and forget that Black people are dying unnecessarily, or that it took a Supreme Court case to insure an entire segment of the population could get married, or miss the argument that there is any merit at all to consider flying the Confederate flag over a government building.  I want to debate drone strikes, gun control, and privacy laws.  I want to look at all the ways America has not measured up to her promise and work to fix those things.

On every other day than the 4th of July.

I realize that this is probably controversial.  But here is why:

Say what you like about how our country operates in practice, but it’s a pretty amazing idea.  Before people like John Locke, it was just CRAZY to think that people had any rights at all.  And here is our country, founded on the principle that people deserve to be able to seek happiness, attempting to guarantee that you can associate with anyone you choose without repercussions, and ensuring you can say whatever you want to and about whomever you want.  There is something beautiful in there.  And when you add in all the crazy stories of the regular folks who made this thing a reality, it gets even better.  Like, to the point where I get a little leaky around the eye (I’m not crying – you’re crying).

To me, the Fourth is a time to think of all these things.  It’s time to revel in the stories of these Founding Fathers, to look at the principles they passed down, and to celebrate that they’ve made it in this world for another year.  The Fourth isn’t about reality.  It’s not about what America is.  It’s about what America could be.  Fly the flag, wear a bald eagle or a tricorn hat, muster on the green, go in search of fireworks.  Bathe in patriotism like a pig in mud.

Then, take all that idealism and use it on July 5th.  There’s plenty of stuff out there to fix, and with a renewed fervor for freedom, it becomes all the easier to see what those things are.  It becomes easier to want to change them.

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The 4th

It is not quite the Fourth of July, but already the town is gearing up for the annual house decorating contest.  The prize is quite nice: several hundred dollars, your picture in the local paper, and a ride down Indian Hill on the back of a convertible behind a group of baton-twirling teens.  Lots of people enter.  Past winners prove that unless your house looks like Uncle Sam vomited stars and stripes across your entire property, you aren’t getting anything.  Tasteful is not in the vocabulary of the selection committee.  Tasteful guarantees failure. 

There is a real contender on the way to my grandfather’s house.  Swags of bunting hang from the garage and over the doorway.  Full flags swing in the breeze from the rafters of the house, and they have purchased white vinyl banners that proclaim “God Bless America.”  One is pointed north and the other south, so that all directions of traffic can see them gleaming.  Their lawn is lined with flags suck upright in the earth.  These are not the small flags people put on picnic tables or wave in their hand.  These flags are over four feet long, fluttering high in the breeze like some nightmarish fence.

“Oh my God,” said Brian when we drove past.  “I can’t even… there are just no words for it.”

“It’s the contest,” I said, “and that’s hilarious!”

“Hilarious is not the word I would use,” said Brian.

“Ok, how about ‘Murica,” I said. 

But secretly, I sympathize with them.  There is only one time a year that my embarrassing enthusiasm for the Revolutionary War is allowed full flower, and that is July.  I will hang out my reproduction ’76 flag, pull my tricorn hat over my curls, and prepare to spend most of the day singing Stars and Stripes Forever.  The only thing that would make this holiday better is cannons. I stop at full displays in the yard, but I understand the impulse.

I could not find the owner of the quote, but somebody said “Patriotism is love of one’s country, despite one’s leaders.” Isn’t it nice, for just one day, to put aside all feelings about the government and just revel in the well-worn, tacky symbols of our origin?  If there was ever a time for this sort of display, the time is now.   I’ll be searching for shoe buckles next week.

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