Trying to Respect the Day

So… Independence Day has been my least favorite day of the year for the last few years.


I dunno. Maybe it’s because I think fireworks and rodeos are overrated.  Maybe it’s because I hate hot dogs. Maybe it’s because I get hives whenever I hear martial music.

(More like John Phillip Loser… Lose-a… Whatever.)

Or maybe I’ve just become increasingly uncomfortable with the level of seemingly blind pro-American sentiment our country tends to display, especially as I become more aware of the role America plays on the international stage. Nationalism, especially in an era of global-scale crises, seems foolish.

That said, I have been softening on the 4th of July holiday quite a bit. I’ve learned you can put onions on hot dogs, and they taste much better. I’ve also been meditating a lot on what America has meant to me throughout the years.

I grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock. The idea that America is a place where people from any background to work and try to make a place for themselves has been with me since my childhood. As a descendant of immigrants, that means a lot to me.

I sang in my high school choir, and the director had a particular fondness for patriotic jams. I remember a particularly powerful experience, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” with hundreds of other teenagers, with the support of a full military band. As hokey as I find “God Bless the U.S.A.” Now, I can’t deny that patriotic music brings a tear to my eye from time to time.

As powerful as those nostalgic feelings are, it’s been difficult for me to set aside my… I’m going to say ,”embarassment” over the way we, as a nation, have acted over the years. I don’t know that I could say I’m ashamed to be American. However, if you were to ask me, I’m not sure I could deny it.

But recently, I’ve started to take a different approach. Maybe my country’s not in the place I’d like it to be, but it’s still MY country. My pride in America doesn’t come from any objective standard of measure. It’s dear to me because it’s mine, the way my home and family are dear to me, despite knowing there are things about them I wish were different.

Look, patriotism is a hard sentiment for me, especially now that I’ve reached my crotchety thirtysomethings. I’m still ashamed of some of my country’s actions, but Independence Day isn’t about where we are, necessarily. It’s about where we’ve come from. And that’s something I can easily celebrate. All the good, all the bad, all the… morally grey… All of that is MY history. To hold. To love. To learn from.

So… Yeah. God bless. May we all own our country and do our part to shape at least our little neighborhood into the type of America we’ve always loved.

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