“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island.” Woody Guthrie
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”
Emma Lazarus (on the Statue of Liberty)
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence
The 4th of July. The Flag. Singing the Star Spangled Banner. Fireworks, hot dogs, baseball, apple pie, and all other things patriotic. This is the time of year when we especially celebrate love of country. To some degree we put aside (briefly) political differences as we unite to remember and celebrate American independence, freedom, and ideals. We celebrate love of country. But, what does it mean to love one’s country?
Does loving one’s country mean you “love it or leave it?” Does it mean you never admit to any wrongdoing (unless it is the other Party)? Does it mean you acknowledge your country’s faults and mistakes and work to change things? Does it mean you are willing to die to protect her? If so, does it mean you are willing to die for whatever reason your government may determine is a worthy cause? Exactly who or what is one’s country?
More specifically, exactly who or what is America? (Of course love of country or patriotism applies to every country, whether you are Greek, Ugandan, Australian, or Bolivian, but I am going to focus on this country). Is America the land? Is America the people? Is America a set of ideals? All three? Which comes first, which takes priority, which should be emphasized? They are certainly not mutually exclusive, but the one emphasized determines to a significant degree a person’s political positions.
Certainly, the United States of America is all three: land, people, and ideals. But here’s the rub. We have to face the reality of how that land was obtained. Was it God’s gift to us? Was it taken legally or illegally? Was it stolen, bought, traded, gifted, or something else? Well, it is certainly a complex and very mixed bag, and we will not all arrive at the same conclusions.
We also have to answer the question of “who is an American?” And that debate rages even now. All kinds of historical, racial, ethnic, cultural, and legal issues permeate that debate.
Furthermore, neither of those questions about land and people can be answered adequately without considering America as a set of ideals, most concretely stated in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. On that pretty much all of us agree. How to interpret and apply those? Well, let the debate continue.
Which brings me to the primary point of this post. What does it mean to love your country? Does it mean we all agree on the definition of land, people, and especially, on the application of the ideals? Does it mean one political Party or ideology has the corner on the patriotic market? Does it mean one race, ethnicity, culture, region, or political persuasion loves country more than another? Could my political opponent really love America as much as I do?
From what I read on my Facebook page, on blogs, and hear from TV talking heads the answer is that “we” (left or right) love America more than “they” (left or right) do. In fact, “they” (or him or her) actually hate America and are set on destroying her.
I think that perhaps “he” or “her” (whoever he or she may be – fill in the name of your favorite political foe) may be wrong, incompetent, or even foolish. Perhaps “he” or “she” doesn’t understand the Constitution as you do, has a different vision of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” than I do, or even may have failed as a leader in more ways than one. We could make a long list of these leaders.
Does that mean that he or she (President, Senator, Judge, General, whoever) “hates” America? I don’t think so. He/she may be a fool, corrupt, and an idiot (again, feel free to insert just about any well-known name here), but, more than likely, he/she loves America.
So, should we debate the issues, hold people accountable, and check the facts (good exercise, by the way)? Yes. Should we stoop to the silliness of confidently declaring that said politician or government official “hates America?” No.
So, my fellow Americans, God bless America! (Boy, do we ever need it).