As the clock winds down on this Independence Day, my thoughts rest heavy on various things. Patriotism and how that’s defined; flags, their meaning, and their defense; celebration of war and sacrifice, or simply an excuse to party. All of these things are part of the United States Independence Day.
Two hundred thirty two years ago, a group of men who disliked the current authority, got together and decided to settle the score on their terms. Using tactics that could best be described as “guerilla” and “terrorism,” this band of brothers set in motion the creation of a new country. A country that, over time, for better or worse, has become the most powerful country in the world.
We’ve heard a lot about patriotism in recent days what with each presidential candidate getting their two cents in. For me, patriotism is closely linked to nationalism, which isn’t far from jingoism in my book. You probably wouldn’t consider me a patriot. And, I’m pretty sure that this post (among others) will preclude me from a career with the CIA or the FBI or pretty much any other government post. Oh, well.
Being a patriot, or one who vigorously defends a country against detractors, can be unfortunate, because you may not be listening to well-intentioned and well-informed issues that affect your country. I know people, some in my own family, that will tell you that this country is the best country on earth…having been to maybe only one or two other countries in their life. I’m not saying that other countries are far superior, I’m just saying that there’s room for improvement in our own.
Not far behind these sayings is a desire to wave our flag, pictured prominently in this post, in the faces of naysayers. Our flag is not a tool or a weapon, it’s merely a symbol. A symbol of our own sacrifices to get to where we are today. By no means should it be used to antagonize or persecute others. Some will say I don’t love our flag. I don’t love what our flag has been made to stand for, but I still cover my heart and tears come to my eyes when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. My grandfather and uncle, both taken well before their time, were military men and when their flags were crisply folded and placed in the arms of loved ones, I broke down and wept. I have the utmost respect for the flag, but not for the vitriol and bile that is being spread beneath its majestic unfurling.
Finally, as the neighbors set fire to the last of their explosives on this Independence Day, I wonder if we truly understand the significance of having this day, or has it gotten lost in the myriad other days wherein we take the day off work and drink beer with family. Has our understanding of freedom become something we simply take for granted because we don’t have to wake up early? My concern is that we no longer continue to fight for freedom because we think it’s a one and done, that our fighting has been done for us. I believe that it’s far from over. I believe we need to fight for our freedom and independence every day…and not in foreign countries where words like freedom and independence are intangible and unforeseeable.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy what we have, but I am saying we should remember how we got here and continue to improve on what we have. Far too long have we rested on our laurels in the independence department. And long may our flag wave in pursuit of that goal every day.