Taking back patriotism

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 29, 2017, 10:37 AM | comments: 0

I have fond memories of learning American history in grade school. There was something fascinating about the framing of our government, the struggles for equality, the innovation during the Industrial Revolution. There was a clear and obvious reason to feel patriotic about our nation. It seemed even more relevant in the midst of school desegregation.

Patriotism meant pride with humility. It meant we embraced our flawed and often tragic past, but reveled in our accomplishment to get beyond it. We were always a key player in a narrative that benefited a world greater then ourselves. We invented medicines, new industries, and defended friends from fascism and tyranny.

At some point, patriotism was co-opted to be something else. Humility was the first thing to go. Treating war and conflict like a sports rivalry replaced the reluctant gravity of causing death among our fellow humans. Blind flag-waving took precedence over engaged, intelligent discourse. Nationalism replaced patriotism as a means to divide and marginalize segments of the population. Patriotism meant you were with us or against us.

This is not what I learned in school.

Political apathy caused us to elect a reality TV show host, someone more obsessed with his own popularity than solving problems. This isn't normal, but what we've seen in the first week of his presidency has been extraordinary. I'm not referring to his actions, but rather the responses to them. The apathy has transformed into extreme engagement and protest. In fact, I would argue that this is the definition of patriotism that I learned in grade school.

I feel like what I've heard the last two years is that America has become a real shit hole. Obviously, a lot of people believe this. We have challenges, for sure. Technology is radically changing our economy and the labor landscape. Working people live in poverty. The environment puts our way of life at risk because of the way we disregard it. The renewable energy transformation is occurring too slowly.

Despite these challenges, we are still a nation that changes the world with our inventions. We launch and land rockets. We make the world's information searchable and connect friends around the world online. We make electric cars here. Some of the most brilliant scientists and medical minds live here. Perhaps most impressive, we invented devices, supercomputers in our pockets, that fundamentally changed everything about our lives. That's the extraordinary America that I know.

Socially, we continue to slowly erode our foundation of injustice. The hold outs of institutional racism are being identified and dealt with. Our LGBT friends can marry and enjoy the legal protections that match their love. Women are slowly having their rights codified, and the cultural admission of inequality is taking hold as a precursor to action. Religious freedoms are guaranteed but not given as a basis for legal discrimination. That's the extraordinary America I know.

With this week's actions by the president threatening all of this extraordinary progress, the people have found their patriotism. The time has come to take patriotism back, to send the message that we are better then this. Going on about how much we suck serves as an effective means to instill fear and establish control, but we're not having it.

Patriotism means standing up, with pride and humility, acknowledging our flawed past and fragile future, and demanding better. A better outcome that proves that "we the people" includes all of the people. That's the America that we were destined to be.


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