A few years ago, my mother said I was a traitor to my country.
It came up in an argument about being critical of the United States. I was living in Australia at the time, and my mother said that criticizing the US while not living there made me a traitor to my country. The conversation did not continue much beyond that.
But it is something that has come up from time to time when I am critical of the US or its policies. Some form of “Well, you don’t live here now so you don’t get a say” usually comes up, and I find that for many people, it is easy to dismiss me because I am no longer living in the US.
This always makes the 4th of July a weird holiday for me.
I have another American working in the office. He is what you would think of a patriotic American: He is wearing American Flag branded stuff today. He is flying a 8 foot by 6 foot American flag from his house today, and he is wishing everyone a very happy 4th. He is also a Trump supporter… which I have done very well to avoid any conversation on that topic (or much about America honestly.)
My…”Patriotism” is a mixed bag of sorts. Much like my family, I have a very complicated relationship with the United States. There are aspects of America that I absolutely love: I love how amazing the people can be. I love the diversity of the nation, from landscape to culture, to people, I find that every corner of the US has something of value, and something worth showing the world. When I take my Husband to the United States, I love to show him parts of America you do not see in the media, or on TV. I show him the hidden gems of the Midwest, or the surprise awesomeness of the South, or even the awe inspiring landscape of the West. From cities to the country, I am most proud of the United States when it does something that helps everyone, and when it does something amazing. I love the quiet moments when the amazing value of Americans come out, and people are constantly surprised by our curiosity, our interest, and our perspective.
But, the United States is a bit of an Asshole as well. When I see the Country’s stance on Immigration, or Refugees, or its views towards others in the world, or when the country seems content on being divided, it is hard to watch. And this is not just at the National level either. I am watching states shut down because they are no longer interested in working together. My home state of Illinois has been operating without a budget for 3 years now, and it is likely not going to change until the next election… next year. We are having basic arguments over how much we should care for our sick, and what is our responsibilities as a nation… and for many, that is “none” and it is frustrating and disheartening. We have a broken political class who seems hell bent on passing legislation that is so unpopular, you have to ask why they are doing it outside lining their pockets for the next election. It feels like the Politicians in power have no party platform, only “stay in power” and with each action, it seems to cement that feeling.
It is not like the United States is alone with these issues: the UK and Australia are also grappling with these sea changes in our nation’s conscience. I could write a very similar post about both countries, and there wouldn’t be much difference.
So, coming back to the 4th. Is it uncouth to redress the Government on the 4th of July?
Last month, there were several protests at US Gay Pride Parades. These protests were not from the Right, but rather, from the Left. Many in the LGBTQI community push harshly back, decrying the protests during a time of celebration. The irony of course was that the first Pride marches were very much protest movements. It seems almost fitting to do the same with the 4th, as it represents the United State’s biggest, and lasting example of Government criticism and redress. As the 4th is now a day of celebration, I think it is appropriate for us to also stayed cleared eyed about the United States. It is not a happy place right now. I have friends who are afraid of their rights. I have friends who are worried if they have a job this year because of politics. I have friends who are worried they will lose healthcare. I have friends who are scared they will lose insurance because they can’t currently afford it. I have friends who have just had babies and their world has gotten more scary because of all of this stuff around us. I have friends who fear that when a cop pulls them over, they will become a victim. I have friends who openly worry about whether they can stay in a city because they are being priced out.
As I watch, from the outside, but with a ring side seat at many who are struggling, it pains me to watch it continue, being unable to help outside of a kind word, or a sympathetic digital shoulder.
I want to help, but I can’t until the US admits it has a problem. Many in the US will point that finger at Trump, or the Republicans… but I feel that this has been happening for a while, and that our politicians have gotten away from us. I think we have allowed ourselves to be divided by something as arbitrary as political opinion. We have cultivated a society that values loyalty over common sense, Jingoism over openness, and has devalued the value of admitting when you are wrong.
Our leaders have become as blind and uncaring to the needs of the people as King George III was blind and uncaring to the needs of the Colonists.
I love the United States. It is my home, it will always be my home, and when it is needed, or warranted, I will defend it with as much fervor as anything. But right now, it needs some help, and I don’t feel like celebrating when I can see it in such self-inflicted pain, and it is unwilling to change itself for the better.