So, I wanted to say something this Independence Day. The current political scene is fraught with the problematical nature of patriotic displays, which seem to have been co-opted by those willing to see our putative democracy slide from oligarchy into downright autocracy while they wave their flags and wear their red baseball caps. But I wanted to try.
I have always wanted feel more patriotic than I do; I suffer from the conflict between appreciating all that the USA promised to be and the understanding of all that it actually has been. Years ago, Robert Mayer's retired hero in Superfolks captured the quandary thus:
I have thought about how to resist that cynicism and support the justice and virtue that we are supposed to stand for. How do we celebrate Independence Day when our history includes Manifest Destiny, slavery, and exploitation? Where do we start? Perhaps with the constitution.
Justice, tranquility, general welfare, blessings of liberty - those internal values are right there alongside common defense, the only outward-facing purpose articulated. Values which, I might add, seem threatened in some new way just about every day lately. I can get behind these values, the ones we, the people, are supposed to stand for.
We, the People - another piece of the patriotism puzzle that I can't let go of, even though university professors tell us we're no longer a democracy. This piece fits nicely beside the E Pluribus Unum that heads the page - the unifying motto of the U.S. until it was shoved aside by the theocratic In God We Trust in the red-baiting, atheist-hating fifties.
Maybe we can get past our bigotry and xenophobia, embrace the diversity in our country, mend the wounds of colonialism and slavery and sexism and nativism, and build the country that we say we want to be. United together, We, the People, can do this; I can celebrate that.
There's still a hitch in the giddyup before I go shooting off fireworks (although I really can't stand fireworks, since they make life miserable for pets and wildlife, not to mention many veterans.) Even if We, the People, can wrest our democracy back from the oligarchs and the autocrats, we're still stuck in a capitalist, consumerist, corporationist system that does no good to our souls, our world, or our society. Once upon a time, I thought there might be something like compassionate capitalism; I have come to the conclusion that that is a logical impossibility, since capitalism is by its nature exploitative and unfair. And compassion seems to be notably absent from the current political discourse. People seem willing to destroy the planet for profits and to allow people to die rather than feel empathy for them; capitalism is not reflective or empathetic or compassionate. And I believe compassion is what we need.
This divide between compassion and patriotism is explored in this article from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, which is well worth the reading. But really, the circumstances only leave me with one place to go:
What could be more patriotic than the longstanding American tradition of the red, white, and blue, and, uh, red?
I'll be patriotic and keep working toward Democratic Socialism in the USA. That I can celebrate.
So here's some fireworks:
Happy Fourth of July everyone.