Born on the Fourth of July

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We love those of our blood the most, especially our children. I’m casual about the fact that I’d willingly die or kill for my daughter. This is a commonplace, and humans are probably hard-wired genetically to have this attitude.

I’d make great sacrifices for my tribe, many of whom read and post at EOB. These are the people as individuals and groups that I’ve voluntarily adopted into my life. Maybe risk my life for them, though there’d be more thought involved. It wouldn’t be as reflexive as stepping in front of a bullet for Rachael. I’d certainly help my tribe hide the body. Or bodies.

I was once consciously proud to be a Texan. We were bigger, better, more open-hearted, warmer. At least that was the myth I grew up with. I was part of the Texan tribe.

And I love my country. I was programmed for that by the culture that I grew up in, especially by school and the mass media. I grew up knowing that we’d saved the world from an awful fate in WWII. We were the best country, and our ideals were a shining beacon for the rest of humanity. I was proud to be part of the American tribe.

Then came the Sixties, and the Viet Nam war, and the terrible realization that we too often didn’t live up to those ideals. And that too many of us didn’t want to. We just wanted the pretense. It broke something inside of me. Something that’s never healed.

And it just got worse after that. Those rights we were taught we had, they seem less and less inalienable every year.

When I think about my country now, there’s still some pride, but I know I’ve lost any perspective on the subject. I find it harder to recognize good news even when it’s right in front of me.

When I think about my country now, I vacillate between rage and sorrow.

The Iraq War is currently the bluntest, most obvious symbol of what’s happened to us. As citizens, we get programmed to be willing to die and kill to preserve our blood, our tribe, our country. If not going to those violent extremes, as least to sacrifice to make it safe and good for us all as a group. And, as a promised extension of that effort, to improve the lot of the rest of us flawed, struggling humans around the Earth. Our biggest, most inclusive tribe.

Our soldiers are the ones who risk most to keep us safe.

But they require wise and honest leadership, and they don’t have that any more. Haven’t for most of my life, as far as I can tell. They make courageous sacrifices, dying and being maimed, at the direction of corrupt, lying, cowardly leaders. Leaders who have avoided all sacrifice and all risk in their own lives, but who’ve casually sent them into the killing zone, with no visible remorse. They’re expended as if they were bullets, not humans, not members of our beloved tribe, who should be cherished and protected and risked only with the greatest forethought.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of our historic revolution in service of freedom and the upward climb of humanity from violent barbarism, with us ruling ourselves, not ruled by a coddled elite.

The Fourth of July is about Patriotism and the American Flag that is the embodiment of our love and aspirations.

For the last forty years, the Flag and the word ‘Patriotism’ have been perverted by the monsters among us, who’ve wrapped themselves in those symbols and used them to viciously manipulate our tribe for their own selfish purposes.

On good days, I see signs that the next revolution is finally brewing. A non-violent one, I hope, with people finally rejecting what’s been done to them in the name of Patriotism and the Flag. I have no idea what the outcome might be. Failed revolutions usually leave something much worse in their wake, and even successful ones can degenerate into reigns of terror.

Recently, I’ve gotten into motorcycling. There’s a huge and growing group of bikers that is composed of members that I might not agree with on too many things. I don’t even agree with some of their organization’s rhetoric. But their patriotism and their use of the flag makes me proud. They’re determinedly non-political. They honor our tribe.

The Patriot Guard was founded to protect the families of our dead soldiers who were being harassed at funerals by a family of fanatics so foul that I refuse to name them here.

I don’t join groups. I’m considering joining this one.

I want my patriotism and my Flag back. I miss them, and what they can stand for.

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16 thoughts on “Born on the Fourth of July

  1. When that same tribe of fanatics threatened to come to Roanoke to picket the funeral of a gay man murdered by a homophobic crazy, the Roanoke and Salem police told the daughter of the scumbag that they could not protect them.

    I think the message was that the police might be on the front lines beating the fuck out of the scumbags for harassing a mourning family. (The Roanoke gay community had basically decided to not cause a fuss, but the straight Roanoke people weren’t in on that discussion).

    The scumbags stayed home. Really angry rednecks did scare them.

  2. Have you noticed that the last few years it has been displayed more and more often? Today it’s everywhere. Even the basic postage stamp is a flag now. The worse the United States behaves, the more people fly the flag. We must be a very bad country right now.

    I’m a veteran and proud of my service, but I have to agree with Rory; I can’t work up much pride in my country anymore.

  3. Good post, Rory–we were thinking in similar ways, obviously.

    I love my country. I’m proud of what she could be. I’m willing to work to get her closer to that point. Politics in the last twenty years have taught me why some dogmas hold that despair is a sin: it paralyzes you, and makes it easy for evil to take over. So: no despair. I want to be able to wear the flag, or fly the flag, whenever it pleases me, without feeling like I’m subscribing to someone else’s ugly agenda.

  4. I’m a Kansan, as a result I have been disgusted and embarrassed by these particular crazies for decades. They do serve a purpose however. By being so hateful, they force people to examine their own prejudices, and perhaps realize that discrimination is a slippery slope that can easily lead to ugly bigotry.

  5. “When fascism comes to America, it’ll be draped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    I’m not sure who said it, but boy howdy, it’s true.

    I am also terribly fond of my country. But that fondness is bound to the knowledge of how good we can be, not how crappy we often are.

    I come from a military family. Mine is the first generation where all the men didn’t serve in some way. And I’m with you, Rory, give me my damn flag back.

  6. Rory, thank you for writing this. You are right on target – our sense of patriotism has been stolen and perverted. How can I wave a flag if it links me with those who are using the flag to justify evil actions? Why would I want to?

  7. Oh, one more thing – about those nutjobs picketing funerals, I agree with Sara. They have been picketing funerals at least since the 1980s when I lived in Kansas, but never really provoked a response when it was “just” gays. Now that it’s soldiers, they’re getting the pushback they have always deserved.
    “When they came for me…”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came

  8. We did Earl’s funeral today.

    Because he was ex-military (Army Rangers), the army sent a color guard to fold a flag and present to my mother-in-law, Elizabeth, during the service. The seargent who presented it talked very quietly to her as he gave her the flag and I was six seats over so I didn’t hear it but the phrase I did catch was “from a grateful nation.”

    This was the most meaningful 4th of July moment for me, this year.

  9. Steve and Laura and T.N and N.G. — My best wishes to you all. My experience is that this sort of thing hurts far longer than anybody who’s never been through it can know. Only time gets you to the other side of it.

    Everybody else — Thanks for your comments to this post. I think a lot of us are paying attention to what’s happened to our country much more than we did before 2000. I’m hoping that that increased attention and awareness will make a big difference in the long run.

    But it’s going to be a protracted, perhaps endless struggle. Too many assholes benefit from the on-going destruction of our 230-year experiment. I fear for the worst, hope for the best.

    I live in a place where my vote is meaningless. About all that’s left to me is to write and to find some small amount of money to give strategically.

    I’m in the early phase of trying to find some way to make a difference, as I’ve felt swept along by the poisoned tide for much too long, and am deathly tired of it. Tired of just bitching and feeling helpless.

  10. Erin — I really enjoyed that ‘Banner Yet Waves’ thing you linked to. I think it’s got some metaphors and similac in it, though. I have problems with those, as you know.

    But it was nice.

  11. I found that deeply moving, Erin. It certainly reflects my own love of this country’s potential, mingled with sorrow and anger over the abuses that have been perpetrated in the name of the flag.

  12. Huh. I just realized that my feeble attempt at humor in my comment #13 about Erin’s newspaper piece comes across as flip. At best.

    It wasn’t meant to be that way. I just wrote too quickly while multi-tasking. My bad.

    It’s a damn good, serious piece of writing and deeply addresses the agony a lot of us are feeling.

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