I’m tired of people calling me un-American because I’m not Christian enough for them. I’m tired of Fox News stealing my patriotism through rhetoric, fear mongering, and ratings grabbing. I’m more than tired, I’m angry.
Yesterday I went to get some new summer clothes for my kids. It’s going to be ridiculous hot the next few weeks, and they were both lacking the proper amount of ridiculous hot weather clothes. I walked in the door, saw the standard 4th of July display, and the thought that jumped into my head was, “Ugh! Just stop, already!” It was a weird moment for me. There was a point when I looked forward to Old Navy putting out their 4th of July designs for the year. I always made sure I picked up something new to wear for the holiday. I love history. I used to love celebrating the history of my country, but lately, that’s turned sour.
Fox News, I curse you to the depths!
When cable news became a thing, the different stations suddenly had to start competing for ratings 24/7. The news became less about news, and more about who could hold the attention of their audience the longest. We started seeing increasingly shocking headlines telling us we needed to fear those who are different than us. There became an intense us v. them narrative that eliminated the call for unity and compromise.
Suddenly I had friends, and family, who had a list of qualifications one had to meet to be a “real” American. Or, at the very least, a good one.
- Likes country music.
- Goes to church every Sunday.
- Votes Republican.
- Denies climate change.
- Does not believe in “socialized” healthcare.
- Hates taxes.
- Owns a gun.
- Wants EVERYONE to own a gun.
- Thinks guns are the solution for all of our major problems.
- Doesn’t think racism is a thing.
- Isn’t a feminist.
- Protests abortion.
- Protests gay marriage.
- Watches Fox News.
- Loves Rush Limbaugh.
- This list could keep going, but I’m stopping here because it’s getting silly long.
I didn’t pass muster. Not even close. It came to pass that being proud to be an American, meant being all of those things listed above. I didn’t know how to translate that for the person I was.
I’m still not sure how to translate patriotism into something I can participate in.
When people ask me if I love the USA, I feel like it’s actually them asking me, “Are you a Republican?” So I stammer. “Yeah, I’m mostly glad I live here, I mean, other places are great too. I hear Canada’s nice! I also think that there are places in Europe that I’d be okay living, but America is pretty good too.”
Somewhere along the line I came to realize that I loved America because I was born here, not because it was necessarily the only good place to live, or even the best place to live, on the planet. We are taught that we live in the “land of the free”, which is true, but since we gained our freedom, countless other countries have as well. So many people experience freedom now, and I think we need to ask ourselves, is their experience less real than ours? I just don’t think so. However, I’ve been told that this notion is unpatriotic by those who feel like we are the only good place on the planet, and I don’t know how to respond to that sentiment.
Is there a place in the abstract concept of patriotism for me? Does a liberal thinking, pacifist, who believes that human-caused climate change is an actual thing, and thinks socialism could work better than what we have, get to play along? Or has the symbol of the flag been completely stollen from me? Sometimes it feels like decking myself out in red, white, and blue is the same as declaring, “I love freedom! But only for people who meet certain criteria!” I hate that.
I’m not sure how to reverse the cycle. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to get dressed up for the 4th without feeling like I’m selling out my ideals. I do know that I can’t stand the fact that a cable news station has commandeered the idea of freedom, and America. I hate that if I don’t agree with Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, that means that, somehow, I’m turning my back on my country.
This 4th of July, I’m going to enjoy the fireworks, bask in what they represent, and remember hard fought battles for equality and freedom, not just for some, but for everyone. I’m going to be thankful that slavery was abolished, but recognize that racism is still a pervasive problem in this country. I’m going to cheer marriage equality, but also continue fighting for the LGBTQ community to gain all of the rights that their straight neighbors possess. I will celebrate religious freedom, not just for Protestants, but for the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Wiccans, Jews, and every other religious group I haven’t named. And freedom from religion for my atheist and agnostic friends. I may not wear the colors, but I’ll hold my love for my home on the inside, and let it push me to demand more from my country, and those who occupy it.
We can do better. We have to do better.
And *raspberry* to you, Fox News.