Monday, July 05, 2010

Why I Love the 4th of July

I inevitably cry at small town parades. 

I don't think anyone should mistake love of country for love of all decisions of its government or as a boast of all of its actions throughout history.  I don't think anyone should mistake love of country for blind patriotism or jingoism.  There is so much more to a country--to any country--than a military or a flag.  There are its people, its landscape, and its unique history, of joy and idealism and hypocrisy and loss, all blended into one unique, unfinished story.

I love my country--not blindly, but deeply, and (I hope) well.

My own love of country is founded in the blue and rolling hills that bound my horizon, the murmur of the leaves of trees in the distance, old (and not so old) church ladies sharing pickle and pie recipes at a church social, small town high school bands, and the smell of a small swimming hole at midsummer.  It is the love of rivers, of sky, of wild things and of sun-baked city streets.

It also embraces the sweat and fear of a soldier in Vietnam, the agony of the slaves whose efforts built virtually all our civic monuments up until Emancipation, the horror of the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, and the triumphant, insistent moral courage of the civil rights movement.  It celebrates the fine day in May when Massachusetts recognized gay marriage, it grieves the deaths at Gettysburg, goes on trial with the Berrigan brothers, runs for president with Susan B. Anthony, and presses close, hushed and reverent, with the hundreds of emancipated slaves who met Lincoln as he toured Richmond, Virginia, during the last days of the Civil War.

That's my patriotism.  I am neither proud to be an American nor ashamed to be one : I am humbled.  I am the heir of so much history, so much pain, and so much love.

May I be worthy of the struggle so far.

 Images: Aldermen in July 4th ParadeThe South Hero, Vermont 4th of July parade, July 4th 2000,  courtesy, Wikimedia Commons.


C said...

I thought I was the only one who cries at parades. Chuck marches in the Memorial Day parade and for some reason as the soldier go by I find myself crying.

The guys who march in these parades are geezers - the WWI vets (of which there were only 2 or 3)riding in a car because they could no longer walk the distance. In the past couple of years the WWI car is empty. The WWII vets are now the ones riding in cars and only a few of those remain... the vietnam vets who were only tentatively represented have now become the oldsters and I am glad to show them the support they didn't get when they first came home.

I think I cry because in eye of every geezer I see the youth that went to war. These were our babies that we shipped off to whatever conflict we were fighting. These are the babies that came home and they stand for all those sons and daughters that didn't. I cry for the parents who lost their children to political fights they may not have understood OR agreed with.

I have never had any internal conflict about opposing war but supporting the soldiers that fought it. I am against senseless crime but I support the police who sometimes lay down their lives so that we can live in an orderly (i didn;t say fair) world.

I may not love the politics of this country - but I do love what it represents... my country is not its politics and America is about being able to have a dream - and make it your reality, whatever the circumstances of your past. it s about making a future - not being bound to the ways of the past.

Anne Johnson said...

No country is perfect, but this one is better than many.

Son of Wisdom said...

Beautifully put! Well said!

Anonymous said...

Son of wisdom "speaks my mind"

Tracy Armstrong said...

This is honestly one of the most beautiful things I've ever read in my life - I cried. Thank you for sharing such deep emotion with the world.

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