On Pondering the Fourth of July…
I’ve never considered myself to be a “patriot,” even in my early years of believing that the U.S. was certainly the best, the smartest, the strongest. I accepted those ideas, those words, without question. After all, that’s what the nuns said, or at least that’s what I think they said. I knew my father had served in the Navy. Surely that meant something, although he didn’t talk about it much and I never thought to ask, although I routed for Navy in the annual Army-Navy football game.
I always loved the fireworks; we celebrated the holiday with a family gathering of seldom-seen cousins. That was my July 4th. That, and counting the days for school to being again. I was not enamored of my unstructured, and mostly lonely, summers.
It was in 1976, our bicentennial, that I first paid attention to the wisdom and folly of our founding fathers. Certainly human, vanities and foibles at the fore. But a union of intelligence, astuteness, perception in these men, that confluence of the heavens, to be able to put forth such a foundation for this experiment in democracy. Like a fire-rainbow that is rare and evanescent, here and then gone, as it appears that intelligence and prudence and refinement in our country’s leaders have disappeared. We can only wonder if it will return, or if our republic has been damaged beyond repair.
For in retrospect, our leaders have always made dreadful and atrocious errors. Our esteemed settlers who stole land from those who believed that land could not be owned; those who ripped the children of Native Americans from their homes, to give them “better” values and vegetables; those who “possessed” others, and took comfort from Bible verses and laws to assure themselves that they were on God’s side; to uprooting Japanese and other Asian families to make our country safe. And now, perhaps our greatest misdeed – the imprisoning of those seeking sanctuary, children in cages, banning groups based on…what? That they are not like us? In the name of keeping us safe? Making us great? What is it that makes a patriot? Putting country before humanity? Or calling our leaders out for their behavior.
Oh, America, whither goest?