Monday, 5 July 2004
I was thinking last night, on my way home from a delightful afternoon Chez Catness, about Independence Day. I saw fireworks going off in all directions as I drove across the lake, and it reminded me of the times when I was little that we'd pack up the hibachi and go to the beach to have teriyaki chicken and chinese noodles and then watch the fireworks. (We lived in Hawaii when I was little, so that's what it was about.) And I started to wonder when it was that the Fourth of July ceased to be Independence Day and became a big picnic and pyrotechnics excuse.
Where are the parades? Where are the veterans to salute as they march by, and the marching bands and the dance teams? Is it just that I live in a relatively urban area, and what I remember of Independence Day is a small town thing?
But that's not all of it, either. It didn't simply become unfashionable and uncool to be patriotic (although it did, in some circles and certainly when I was a teenager). I think my big problem is that because I question my government, because I dare to disagree with the actions it takes, and I speak out about it, I am not allowed to be patriotic anymore. I have to be embarrassed to be an American, because my country is a blight on the landscape of international politics. I cannot separate what I believe in from the actions of that man in the white house, whether or not I agree with what he's doing (I don't, for the record).
Patriotic "Murrikins" would have me believe that it is My Country, Right or Wrong, and if I disagree I can get out. I do not agree, and I'm not going to let them force me out. Because I am an American, and I do believe we have great capacity for good in this country, we just need to appeal to the part of Americans that wants to help out and do good and stop feeding the baser laziness and complacency. People need to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, not buy a lawyer to make someone else pay. (I am not going to get started on the evils of a litigious society, I am NOT.)
we are not the premier and only big power in the world. We don't own the world, it is not ours to dispose of as we see fit, and we need to stop acting like it is. Cooperation is a lost art these days, but I would like to propose we bring it back. And I would like to tell every single American who wants me to believe that my questioning and agitating and values are unAmerican that it is they who are acting unAmerican. Not me. Questioning the authority and the status quo is fundamentally American, and I refuse to let them take that away from me.
I'm not really sure I got out what I wanted to say here. It's hard to write about this without getting caught up in rhetoric and partisanship and flinging accusations, but I'm not going to blame anyone or any group for where we are now. I'm just saying I will not give up my own fight to do what's right and question (and work to stop) what I think is wrong. No one group owns the American experience or gets to define what it means or what is American. It belongs to all of us, and it is not only our privilege but also our duty to help create the collective vision and definition of who we are.
I own my experience, and I get to define it. You can call it whatever you want, but you can't tell me that my experience, beliefs, attitudes, and actions are not American. They are nothing but, and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me.
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