I’ve been thinking about the flag. The American flag. And patriotism.
This administration and its supporters wave the flag and use the old “America, Love It Or Leave It” slogan as though they’re on the right side of any argument. They act like the flag belongs to them, and anyone who disagrees with them lacks patriotism.
I believe patriots defend their country. And demand it live up to its highest ideals.
Republicans slammed Michelle Obama when she remarked that she was proud of her country for the first time in her adult life as her husband campaigned. Why was she proud? She said it seemed like hope was making a comeback.
And for a while it did.
That was 2008, and if anyone wants to argue she was out of line, 2020 sure explodes that argument. Racism came roaring back when the Obamas left office, and it has set this country on fire.
An NFL player was demonized because he took a knee during the national anthem to protest police killings of black people. The reaction was fake outrage, a swooning horror at his lack of patriotism.
Now, after yet another brutal murder of a black person by police, American patriots are taking to the streets, demanding we be better. And again, the fake outrage, the horror at their lack of patriotism.
Don’t take a knee. That’s unpatriotic. Don’t march, either.
As so many have asked, what, precisely, is the patriotic way of expressing dissent?
Weapons-toting white people swarming into a state capital, angry that they’re told to wear masks to protect themselves and their neighbors from a pandemic? Hanging their elected officials in effigy? Don’t even try arguing that one.
Love isn’t stupid, and it’s not blind. America has failed over and over to live up to its ideals. What I love about my country is we haven’t given up. We keep trying. I’m not buying into the jingoism that has led me to retreat in the past.
This is America. It is a democracy. It is a nation of immigrants, an imperfect union that struggles always to improve, to be kinder, more tolerant, more inclusive, and more loving. That flag belongs to progressives, too. And I claim it.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.