Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth

Check out this marvelous Independence Day post from Digby, featuring a great passage from Frederic Douglass's famous fourth of July speech. I like this comment by Digby:

I don't subscribe to the chauvinistic notion that says we must hail America as the greatest country the world has ever known, despite the fact that I love America as much as I love my family.

The comparison is an apt one, worth a little further elaboration. Does anyone seriously think that being a good family man (or woman) requires believing that one's family is "the greatest family--the most generous, dedicated, hard-working, caring family--in the history of the world"? What would you think about a father who dedicates several days a year to holding ceremonies to publicly proclaim the greatness of his wife and children (and denouncing anyone who doesn't agree with his assessment of them)?

Obviously such behavior would be considered weirdly unhinged. We all love our families, and many of us would give our lives for them. (In various ways, many of us do.) That doesn't require constant public avowals of our love or declarations of our families' "greatness." We love our families because they're ours, and we figure, quite rightly, that the Herricks next door and the Everetts across town love their families just as much--as they should. The "superiority" of one family over another is irrelevant. Sure, on Father's Day you might give your dad a "World's Greatest Father" T-shirt, but it's just an affectionate gag; you're not surprised or offended when you see three other fathers wearing the same shirt.

That's what real patriotism is like--a mature, unforced, natural love comparable to our love for our families. Instead of which we have the phony patriotism that loudly and continually insists on the unsurpassed greatness of the United States and pushes everyone to echo it--not just on Independence Day but on Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, I'm Proud To Be an American Day, President's Day, Veteran's Day, Constitution Day, the anniversary of 9/11 . . . how many of these multiplying annual observances am I forgetting?

Thankfully, even in this era of the USA Patriot Act and the new McCarthyism, most normal Americans devote more energy on Independence Day to barbecues and TV sports than to enforced declarations of patriotism. At our house, the menu was burgers, Italian sausages, and a come-from-behind Mets win over the first-place Washington Nationals. Hope you enjoyed your Fourth as much as we did.
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