I have always enjoyed the 4th of July, mainly because I like fireworks. I like the pretty ones, not the ones that just blow up and are loud. However, this day is really not supposed to be just about explosives. This is not a religious holiday, it is a day for nationalism. We call it patriotism. What do we have to be patriotic about? We should not just blindly glorify this country simply because we live here. We have many laudable "rights" in this country, but we have not solved all, or even most, of our ills. We have rampant poverty in our midst, excessive violence and corruption, marginalization and intolerance of whole subsets of the population, and the rich and powerful oftentimes reap more than they sow. Our country is flawed, just as people are flawed. But we must accept that humans are flawed while vigilantly fighting greed, inequality and power-mongering, flaws which are inevitable in ourselves and in this country collectively.
This country saved my family's lives, by allowing us entry when our fate would have been annihilation at the hands of Hitler. Yet, not all of those needing asylum here were afforded it. Many of my family members were barred from America's shores, because they petitioned for entrance too late, could not find suitable sponsorship, or they failed to raise the necessary funds. Those relatives, along with millions of others, perished, with no aid from America. Now, many say, America cannot save everyone in the world from hunger, poverty and crime, and that's true. However, should we invade countries claiming either they pose a threat to our safety or we are bringing Democracy to the masses, when in truth we are protecting our oil or other business interests? Should we have turned a blind eye to the genocide in Rwanda perhaps because their was no economic incentive for intervening?
This blog may seem unpatriotic on this very most "patriotic" day of the year. It is not. I am able to write my thoughts without fear of reprisal (or maybe just a little fear of the NSA, but not much) because of what America offers and provides - freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to criticize. The first amendment's freedom of speech is one of the most basic tenets of this country, and what separates our nation from most other countries in the world. And we have the Rule of Law - which means that no one, no government official, no wealthy socialite, no powerful industrialist, is above the law. At times the rule of law works less well in practice than in theory, but the powerful and wealthy are generally made to abide by our laws, nonetheless. And we have protections for those accused of crimes, the right to a jury of one's peers, the right to an attorney, the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, and those rights make up the fabric of our justice system.
America is flawed. Democracy is flawed. But we know in this country that you don't throw out the baby with the bath water. We will never be perfect, far from it, but we do not give up. The Bill of Rights to our Constitution is the most powerful compact for justice in existence today.
We are great because of all of the dissatisfied people who fight to keep our country on the right track. We are great because of all of the people such as Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Woodward and Bernstein, and others who have insisted that we be great. We are great because of our courts, our juries, our free elections, our free press and our Bill of Rights.
This country saved my family's life. I love this country, just as I love my family, flaws and all.