Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Born in the USA

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we approach the celebration of the birth of our nation tomorrow, patriotism is on my mind. Bonnie and I attended a very nice service at a Unitarian Universalist church this weekend, and one of the topics discussed by the minister was about balancing being both liberal and patriotic. I have mixed feelings about this. I find myself generally turned off by patriotism as displayed by most conservatives in this country. I don't teach my kids the white-washed version of American history that I learned in school, nor do I have a national flag displayed in my house. And of course I don't force my children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

All that said, I am incredibly drawn to the secular values our nation was founded on. As I have begun reading the first chapters of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism , I'm learning how much thought and attention was put into crafting our secular American government. I love our Founding Fathers' vision for this country!

Am I proud to be an American? Sometimes, maybe. But I often find myself pretty ashamed of many aspects of our nation's history and current policies. I love George Carlin's words here on the idea of national pride:

...I could never understand national or ethnic pride, because to me Pride should be reserved for something you achieve on your own.

I am happy to have been born in and continue living in a country that was founded on secular values and reason by some of the most intelligent men in history. But I wish our nation lived up to those values more, and I don't pretend that being an American is somehow "better" than being from another nation, many of which are leaps and bounds ahead of us in things I strongly value, such as life expectancy, literacy, math, science, healthcare, not waging war, and women's rights.

When I am not waving flags and saying God Bless America tomorrow, it's not because I don't love this country. Really, I do. (Do I think Gob blessed it? Well, obviously not.) But I don't ever want to confuse patriotism with blind loyalty to the government, or to the military, or to upholding a false view of our national history, and I feel like the conservative definition of patriotism that's running rampant has done just that.

There's a really great quote that's incorrectly attributed to Thomas Jefferson and that appears to have conflicting views on its origin. Nonetheless, it defines patriotism simply in a way that makes sense to me: Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday!


  1. Emerson and Carlin quoted in one post? You *are* my kind of people.

    I thought about the "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" as I avoided all public displays and celebrations yesterday. I'm just not for wandering the glaring streets to eat BBQ (ick, in this heat?), sweating so much that stink is visible, and making small talk while sitting in mosquito clouds to await a 20 minute replication of fire hazards-for-entertainment.

    I sat under our trees and read Buddhist teachings while drinking Malbec. I'm a gentle subversive.

    1. Sounds like a perfect holiday to me, Jennifer. :)

  2. I just found your blog, and I love it. I especially love that you posted one of my favorite George Carlin quotes! And many of the blogs you have linked. Thank you, I finally don't feel like I'm alone anymore! I'll be visiting again :)