I didn’t celebrate the 4th because I was on the Mexican side of the border, which got me thinking a lot about…a lot. Bear with me. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s because I don’t make sense.
The notion of a country, to me, is hazy. As I was ranting to my mom yesterday (I think I scared her because she told me, nicely, that I live in a fantasy world, and, well, maybe I do) that borders are so arbitrary, I was further convinced that we’ve taken the modern concept of a nation for granted. Or, really, that we don’t understand it and its purpose. We get to watch great displays of fireworks and chow down juicy hamburgers, all while claiming to celebrate independence and this collective entity we call a country.
Yes, we are independent. From Britain (anybody see that poll? sheesh people). We’re free to do whatever we want as a nation. We decide our laws, our customs, our norms, our everything. And for the past 235 years, since the moment (and perhaps even a bit before) we declared independence from King George’s taxation without representation, we’ve been doing things our way, the American way. (see that our? I’m identifying with Americans. It comes and goes.)
The matter, however, ceased to be about independence a long, long time ago. Today, it’s about codependence and about nourishing it.
Now, I know the word has a very negative connotation. What I mean is a dependence on each other as citizens, as people with one shared goal (not one common trait) given that we are geographically confined to a certain piece of land.
Here is where patriotism comes in. I’m not a huge fan of it. I feel it’s often a blind, unquestioning and superficial faith, at least in how it is expressed, and when dispersed by the masses. Like Karl pointed out, it can be displayed as jingoistic chanting as in the case of Osama Bin Laden’s death.
Most countries are plagued by this kind of patriotism. I’ve seen it in Mexico, whether in groups of people or in individuals. I’ve participated it in this zealotry, only to regret it later. This type of modern-day patriotism, though very much visible, it is ultimately a flashy hindrance to our collective potential.
(You will note that I do not want to say, “our country’s potential” because I feel that in using the word “country,” we separate ourselves from it, when truly, we American citizens are what make up the country. The country does not make us.)
The type of patriotism that is vital to any country, though for the purpose of this post I will narrow it down to the U.S., is not the one where we chant “U.S.A. All The Way!” It is the one where we continually ask ourselves, “Have we built the nation we wanted?”
A particular example, at least for me, of someone who displays these qualities is Ashley. She believes the American prison system is flawed. From her June 29 post:
I’ve always been a person that needs answers. I have several about our corrections system. Most of them relating to the intended purpose of the corrections system, whether that purpose is being served, and if it is, is the status quo really the best way to going about doing that.
I value her sense of urgency in taking matters into her own hands and saying flat-out, “there’s something wrong and we’ve got to fix it.” If more people thought like her, we’d be better off, and our independence would not have been in vain.