Celebrating the Fourth in an election year, especially one as contentious and loaded as this one, is like walking a tightrope. (Or a slackline, if you prefer the hipster version of this metaphor.) On one hand, we have Hillary, who has her faults, sure, but who is the most qualified person to seek the office ever. On the other… let’s just say I’d like to cut the other hand off.
As many have noted, Donald Trump is exactly what a certain wing of the Republican party should expect, given certain voter characteristics that they’ve cultivated and sown over the past few decades: fear of anyone brown now that they’re out of literal chains or the metaphorical Jim Crowe ones (aka “free enough”); a longing for the days when women were barefoot and pregnant and chattel; and a flag staked in the ground that you’ll pry out after you run the gauntlet of our arsenal of guns, Make America
White Great Again brand of patriotism that would like to ignore all that politically correct mumbo jumbo of all the shit this country has done and is doing, thankyouverymuch.
Last year in Jefferson County, Colorado there was a school board contingent hellbent on changing the district’s AP U.S. History curriculum to make it more “patriotic.” They wanted to whitewash our student’s understanding of history by ensuring a review where teaching “Materials should present positive aspects of the United States,” “Promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
It sounds innocuous enough, right? Except here’s the thing: every major step forward this country has taken has involved civil disorder, social strife, and a disregard of the law. You think the Civil Rights Movement was orchestrated within the confines of the law? Even the “peaceful” acts were perfect civil disobedience. We now celebrate leaders who dragged us forward, kicking and screaming, outside the confines of what is considered “patriotic.”
In 2004, the Descendents released Cool to be You. They’re one of the bands responsible for ’90s and ’00s punk’s upbeat and dancey vibe: we’re angry youths, but we’re also here to make nerdy jokes and songs about flatulence! On that album is perhaps the best patriotic song I know (and this coming from a girl who used to direct everyone, and I mean everyone, to sing Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American):
Even 12 years later, its relevance still stands. The line “you’ve got to know the truth before you say that you’ve got pride” is still so impactful. Which is why it pisses me off to no end when people want to simply cast away large chunks of our history because they’re not in the best light – in addition to being doomed to repeat the events we hide in the closet, we can’t keep moving forward.
America doesn’t get a participation trophy just for having an enthusiastic cheering section.
I joke with friends about moving to Canada if Trump wins. One friend and I have a list of places we could go, since neither of us is rich enough to just buy our own damn island. Neither of us is going anywhere, though, because the part of this clear-eyed patriotism we have that isn’t touched upon in the song is the absolute need and duty to keep moving this country forward. So yes, we still have systematic racism and sexism. We have kicked the ladder away from not only the poorest of this country, but we’re pretty well done with disassembling the ladder reaching to the middle class, too. Much like my closet when my mom sent me to my room to clean it, we keep trying to stuff more and more in there to give the appearance of a country that has an enviable Pinterest-board house, and it makes it so much more difficult for the LGBTQ+ among us to climb the hell out of there. And we call this process of trying to un-stuff the closet of “undesirables” political correctness.
I love this country. There is no better feeling in the world than walking through customs at the airport, and having that agent stamp your passport and say, “Welcome home.” I love our stupid bald eagle memes, and fast food, and overpriced lattes, and sitting on public transportation with the ranting and raving dude going on about conspiracy theories. I love the fact that that dude isn’t arrested for muttering obscenities about Obama or the police (if he’s white…).
But I see where we can be better. And part of loving this country is loving it enough to fight for it. So I will wear my Rad, White and Blue t-shirt today and my ridiculous patriotic top hat fascinator. Tomorrow, though, it’s back to work.