Monday, July 04, 2016

I am a Patriot (Sorry Not Sorry)

It's the Fourth of July. It's an important day for me.
So is Memorial Day. And Veteran's Day. And Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. And Patriot Day.
And so are a bunch of other related holidays, and the other 360 days not in the above list.
Because I love my country.
That's not in vogue. Hell, it's not even popular. Honestly, it's actively discouraged in today's world.
And that is broken.
I'm proud to be an American.
I can't take credit for it – It's not like I got to choose my parents or where or when I was born or on what soil or when in the timeline, or any of the things that made me an American.
But I can do something with it.
For me, patriotism is a responsibility. It's a set of attitudes and actions that live out the ideals of everything that make my country great. (I do claim it. I don't minimize or disavow it.)
The ideals. The "what it should be."
Not jingoism. Not fascism. Not a host of other labels people will use to intentionally devalue and deconstruct and destroy something that could make the world better.
It's not, "I'm OK, you're OK, so we're all OK."
As we traipse along in our little isolationist bubbles of selfishness, corporate betterment be damned.
No, it's, "I'm not OK. You're not OK. And that's OK."
Not not in a "let's settle and wallow in our broken bubbles of selfishness, because – hey – everyone's broken."
And it's not embracing the worldwide in vogue societal lie that each of us are even independent islands of awesome that are entitled to do what we want (bigger values and norms be damned).
We are are a social, deeply dependent species that is better when we come together to live for ideals and overcome our individual brokenness to make something bigger and better and healthier than we can by ourselves.
Patriotism is a very important avenue for that.
That's not to say we don't occasionally come together; we do. Often at times of horrible tragedy.
Columbine and Sandy Hook. 9/11 and Orlando.
Things I think about and have a tightening in my chest and a helpless sorrow and physical desire to huddle in my home holding my family for eternity.
But amazing things happen in those times of tragedy.
And so do amazingly fractured, broken things, as people line up in solidarity across dividing lines that often become more about marginalizing opposition (the horrific irony), rather than doing everything we can to stave off the encroaching downward darkness spiral with those pools of light of acts of service and sacrifice that are those good islands of hope to which we so desperately cling.
But thank God those things do happen.
In the wake of giant tragedy, as I try to go through what I can find out about each of the victims, and directly and splash damage impacted people, in what could be a horrifically sink-hole of sadness, there are these brilliant, stabbingly bright lights of heroism, some big, and so many non-spotlighted and never making it above the fold.
It's not like living ideals – any ideals – is easy.
To be ramble-y for moment, the only good example of any of this is me, because that's the sample set of one with which I am 100% aware. (Ish.)
And I'm one uneven, inconsistent, perpetually emotionally 14-year-old example. I'm snarky and passionate and high-handed and inappropriate and rallying and divisive and loyal and turncoat and loving and selfish so much more.
(Which any of you who follow my too-involved online presencie have a vague sense of – and be thankful you don't have the additional insight of living in my skull.)
But even if I don't have it all figured out, I do have the awareness – or sometimes just a sense – of ideals that might lift me and people around me up. If even a little bit.
Patriotism gives a container for a decent chunk of ideals.
Sure, the history is messy and there are so many dark milestones on the way that I can't whitewash or grotesquely minimize with a version of, "Hey, that wasn't me that did that."
But I'm talking about the ideals. The "if I I figure out some version of living out this one thing, the world is a better place. And if I can also live out some version of this other one that I think will make the world better place. Oh, and this one...."
And owning it. Owning those ideals are wrapped in a country-specific wrapper that isn't that country-specific, because these are borne from desperate desire to hold onto human values, irrespective of country borders.
And not being milktoast about. It's digging in my heels and saying, "No! This, this Value – This matters.
This is worth doing the hard work and fighting for."
Living this:
"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."
Living this:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
****ing living this:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries sheWith silent lips. 'Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"
Happy Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day.
Whether you live in that country's borders or not.
God Bless America.