Happy B-Day America!
What does it mean to aspire? Here is one definition: direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something.
Words like aspire come in handy when invoking the soaring platitudes of patriotism (platitude: a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful) and what can be more patriotic than America’s b-day, the 4th of July?
Don Pogreba has crafted a patriotic post for America’s b-day to counter the liberals hate America meme, and the title of this patriotic post is Liberals Can Love the United States, Too: A Message for Independence Day . But before getting to aspirational platitudes, the initial framing is, of course, smug partisanship:
I’m never going to enjoy a Toby Keith song about America, nor demand that my neighbors “love or leave” this country. It’s unlikely that I will ever refer to an American media outlet as traitorous, or demand that we build a fenced wall between the United States and Mexico. I don’t believe that, this, or any country has been chosen by a higher power to lead the world, and I don’t believe that the United Nations is using bike lanes as part of a global plot to strip the U.S. of its sovereignty. I do, however, love the United States.
So, after salting the field, how about some of that aspirational stuff:
I love America for what it aspires to be, and what is has the potential to become. The foundation of what this nation celebrates today, the Declaration of Independence, was more than a statement of revolution; it was a statement that governments exist to secure the rights of their citizens, and not to enrich and empower the few. That aspiration has been an inspiration for countless people, revolutionaries and dreamers, and a model for governments around the world for over 200 years.
I love America for its incredible diversity, for its commitment to the idea that our unmatched military might should be used for good, not dominance, its belief that every man and woman should have the opportunity to achieve his/her dreams, and its incredible optimism. I love America for its sense of community, its belief in civil rights and equality, and its capacity to be united.
Our government no longer exists (if it ever did) to secure the rights of its citizens. And our government is no longer a model (if it ever was) for governments around the world. As for this alleged capacity to be united? Well, considering how this post started, forgive me for not being able to suspend my disbelief.
Next, we are told that, alas, despite America’s best intentions, sometimes America deviates from its aspirational origins:
And yet, we fall so short of some of those aspirations. Our government, like any human institution, often falls short of the aspirations that guide it, and sometimes even deliberately does wrong. With all of our power and all of our wealth, we sometimes fail to do what is in the best interest of the world, or even our own citizens. As someone who loves his country, I cannot be silent when I believe we are on the wrong course. I cannot acquiesce when the government oversteps its power, or when it ignores its responsibility to the people it serves.
Using the possessive pronoun “our” when referring to America’s power and wealth is aspirational bordering on delusional. The power and wealth that has essentially destroyed American Democracy is transnational. Of course acknowledging that would undermine the colloquial notion of government this post relies on. Anyway, on to the next platitude:
Liberal criticism of our nation’s policies is often mistaken or mischaracterized by the Right as hatred of America, or a desire to leave. Nothing could be further from the truth. We criticize the government because we believe it can be better, do more, and infringe less. Blind devotion to one’s country is not patriotism; it is nothing more than subservience that Jefferson would have despised.
I agree, blind devotion to one’s country is not patriotism. Now, for a conclusion, how about a disingenuous call for working together?
The celebration of our independence isn’t limited to one side of the political spectrum. Patriotism isn’t about whose flag is flown higher or whose lapel pin is shinier; it’s about working together to make our nation what Jefferson and the other founders hoped it could be, an inspiration for the rest of the world:
The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
Have a wonderful fourth.
Despite Don’s assertion at the beginning of the post—I don’t believe that, this, or any country has been chosen by a higher power to lead the world—the quote he selects, that America can truly light the world, smacks of Manifest Destiny, or divine selection.
Americans need to get over themselves. The non-American world will not continue accepting our arrogance. That “unmatched military” Don refers to, patriotically of course, actually is matched by counter-forces increasingly putting US foreign policy in check.
So, as people enjoy this three day weekend celebrating American Independence by blowing shit up, terrorizing pets and combat vets, remember, the platitudes of American exceptionalism are skeletal and suffering osteoporosis.
Enjoy the 4th!