Bring On the Fireworks: Dissent on the 4th of July

I read somewhere that they are expecting 4th of July celebrations across the country to be somewhat low-key this year because people aren’t feeling very patriotic.

But surely being concerned for the health of our democracy and feeling patriotic aren’t incompatible, are they? No. In fact, I’d say they are one and the same.

I am very concerned that the institutions in this country are being attacked and undermined. There are very real reasons to worry for the future of our democracy: attacks on our independent press and on freedom of speech, incursions on the separation of powers, dwindling impartiality of judges, hyper-partisanship, low voter involvement and a whole host more.

But  these are not reasons to feel un-patriotic. Patriotism after all is “vigorous support for one’s country.” Well I do vigorously support this great country. I absolutely support the ideals and values embodied in our institutions and our founding documents. I understand what our Founders were trying to achieve and what they were trying to avoid. I take the time to learn about our nation’s history and its development.

And I don’t take the health of our democracy for granted. I know how easily it can slip away or be undermined. It needs constant vigilance to make sure that the ideals that this country embodies don’t get subverted. So I educate myself on the issues and I vote.

Being patriotic also means I am able to face up to the mistakes we have made and the areas where we still need improvement. I don’t ignore them or try to justify them, or worse, try to re-write history to whitewash their unpleasant nature. I get concerned when I see that we are headed down the wrong path, so I speak out and I write my representatives, and I march and protest when I think that’s needed. Dissent is a form of patriotism. The Founding Fathers knew that so they guaranteed protections for freedom of speech and the right to assemble and to petition our representatives. They knew that honest dissent would help protect our democracy and make it stronger.

Maybe people think to prove you love America you have to act like it’s perfect — that it’s somehow wrong to admit that we’ve made mistakes. When they see protesting or hear complaining, they think it means the protesters don’t love this country. They say “If you don’t think it’s perfect here, then move somewhere else.” Well, I think it’s great here, but I also know it can be better. And I’ll do everything I can to help make that happen. Patriotism is a lot like parenting: when you see your child going in the wrong direction, you help them to see their mistakes and guide them back onto the right track. You don’t ignore their mistakes or kick them to the curb because you don’t approve of everything they do. And you don’t stop loving them.

Of course, for some people patriotism means wrapping yourself from head to toe in the Stars and Stripes. Or flying 40,000 flags. But that’s just how some people express themselves. The important thing is that we all want the best for America and for everyone in it.

I love my country and I want the very best outcome for it and its citizens. All of them. So I’m going to celebrate my country this year, just like I do every year.

Now bring on the hot dogs and fireworks!

2 Comments

  1. It seems that most of the “patriots” would walk on the Constitution to save a flag. I think that most would say that the flag is more important because the Constitution is “boooo-ring!”. And, forget about one of them reading the Federalist Papers…

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    1. Agreed. And I find it perplexing. For some, patriotism is all about flag-waving (and flag-wearing) with absolutely none of the hard work. But if it were that easy, Hamilton, et al would have put on a Betsy Ross-made T-shirt, cracked open a beer and called it a day.

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