Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

I'm not much of a patriot, so I'm not going to wax sentimental about all things American, wave a giant American flag, and cry zealous nationalistic crocodile tears.

Sure, America's a great place to live, but there are lots of great places to live. And sure, the founding fathers were awesome dudes with a vision, but honestly, when they wrote the preamble and said "all men are created equal" they really meant "all rich white guys are created equal." Thankfully they left it vague enough so that it could be reinterpreted to suit evolving cultural sensibilities and the term "men" could be generalized to mean "people" (i.e., to include women and everyone of color).

I'm happy that in recent decades America seems to be coming to better terms with some of the chapters of her past, although admittedly we have a long way to go before we have true equality. At least (for the most part) we're no longer touting the white bread, flag-waving, do-no-wrong vision of American history that was spoon fed students early in the 20th century. I believe that the only way to learn from the past is to face mistakes honestly in order that we do not repeat them. There have been many times in our history where our leadership has swept historical lessons under the rug only to repeat them, with abysmal results.

I tend to think of Independence Day as an opportunity to reflect on our history and examine the ways in which we can improve on what we've got. There's a lot to be proud of, but that doesn't mean the work is done. We should always temper patriotism with humility, otherwise it will quickly evolve into blind arrogance When you think about it, it's only been in those moments in our history when we were truly humbled that the greatest strides away from "all rich white guys are created equal" and toward "all human beings are created equal" have been made.

However, all that being said, independence is pretty swell and worth celebrating. Happy Independence Day!

1 comment:

Helena Halme said...

Coming from a small country like Finland, having independence is important. We celebrate it on 6th December every year. But I absolutely agree with your comments about history. Nationalism can be pretty dangerous too.