Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th of July, The 5th of November

I've never been the "patriotic" type. I'm too cynical. Too well read in our nation's history. Too contemptuous of our various misdeeds, both past and present. I'm too bothered by our continued involvement in atrocities around the world, particularly the latest wars we've gotten ourselves in. I'm too young to sit quietly while watching the fireworks, but too old to protest.

I am caught midway in that pose between action and complacency.

While I'm glad to be an American, I cannot say that I am proud to be one. Who can be proud to be an American amidst our illegal wars, fiscal insanity, social injustice, lack of compassion for the poor, the homeless, and the damning outburst of political vitriol from our reactionary countrymen. Who can genuinely say they are proud to be an American in the face of Iraqi children lying dead from our cluster-bombs? Who can say that when their privileged lifestyle is manufactured in China by sweatshop labor? Who can say that when cops kill unarmed civilians with impunity and get away with it?

So call me a party-pooper but I can't. I can't forget the flipside to patriotism. I can't forget the price we've made others pay so we can revel in our nationalistic intoxication. No, I won't stand and salute the flag. It doesn't wave in the wind for me. It hangs limply like a crucifix, reminding me of all the dead things -- like our innocence -- that are gone.

When they sing the Star-Spangled Banner, I don't place my hand over my heart. Instead I hang my head and remember James Byrd Jr.. I remember that many schools across the country still have an annual Kick A Jew day. I remember the Americans, some who go to school right down the street from me, who are being deported because it is politically expedient to appease nativists and just call them immigrants. I remember these things when others do not, because to me this is not a day for celebration but a day for remembrance.

So tonight, when the fireworks are lighting up over the bridge in San Francisco, as the tourists mix with the locals to gaze across the waters of the Bay, and the national anthem comes spilling from some distant loudspeaker, I'll remember these things that should never be forgot.

Happy Birthday America

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