I have always loved the 4th of July. It was one of the big holidays for my mom’s side of the family when I was growing up. We’d always get together on my grandparents’ land, make some homemade ice cream, and watch the fireworks display from the back yard.
My grandmother got all of the grandkids these shirts every year (for I don’t know how many years):
My family is fairly patriotic (depending on who you ask). I was raised with a sense of love and respect for my country. But as I’ve gotten older, I think this holiday, more than any other, has been tainted. People constantly attack Independence Day, calling out the United States for every wrong it’s ever committed, from genocide of the Native Americans to enslavement of the Africans. These things cause them to have no pride in our country.
Now, I have never (and will never) turn a blind eye to the United States’ rather sordid past. Were atrocities committed here? Absolutely. Did the leaders of our government knowingly pass laws and edicts that caused injustice and harm to millions of people? Yes. I can think of a dozen such laws that I’ve studied in sociology and history courses. And it is happening still today. But I have never felt as though that made me incapable of being proud of my country, because there is so much good that has happened here, too. As a nation, we have stood up to forces that would take away not only our freedom, but the freedom of other countries. Our men and women have sacrificed their lives not only for America, but for other nations.
Here’s where my problem is: I am proud to be an American. I am not proud of everything America has ever done. And I think that is where people get stuck. Being proud and supportive of one’s country does not give it a pass for everything negative that has ever happened here. You don’t have to hate America simply because you don’t agree with everything “America” has ever done. (And I put American in quotation marks because people seem to treat it as a disembodied entity acting of its own free will. America does not exist without the human beings inhabiting it and running its government.) But you don’t have to love America blindly, either.
I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with being patriotic IF one can be honest about one’s history. Recognize where your country has come from and how far it has come. Recognize not only the negatives, but the positives. And if you’re not completely satisfied with where we are now, do something about it. Don’t just sit back and whine about how horrible you think America is while you’re living here and enjoying all of the benefits. Be proactive about improving your nation.
Independence Day was not the beginning or the end of this country. The United States has changed so much since that day, and it will continue to change. The direction of that change, however, is really up to us. There has always been a force for good in this country, and its strength has ebbed and flowed with time. Don’t be apathetic. Our country is still young. We have so far left to go.