Fourth of July
I’m a veteran. I have mixed feelings about most patriotic holidays (okay, all patriotic holidays) and today is no different. We could all use a day off and I honestly couldn’t care less about how the holiday is celebrated. The only real issue I have with how it’s celebrated is with the fireworks. The world is on fire at the moment (literally) and we don’t need to help it along. My main issue with the holiday is (of course) toxic patriotism and the inevitable misogyny and white supremacy that comes with it. Of course, that is how America was built…
With all the whitewashing of history, it’s easy to forget that our country was built on the backs of slaves and on the land of the indigenous communities that even today are abused by the federal government. Normally in these types of posts I would heavily cite sources for every single one of my claims. I’m tired and I doubt I would change any minds, even if I put in that kind of effort, so instead I’m just going to complain a bit.
Let’s start with the obvious, the international space station. It is a monumental feat of human ingenuity and engineering. We literally built a home… in space. A place to test our science and figure out ways that we could become less earthbound and more spacefaring. However, this was an international collaboration. No one country had the resources or budget dedicated to space travel to pull it off alone. Trust me, we’ve tried and nothing has come close. Could you imagine the things we could be capable of if we stopped being assholes to each other for just a few minutes?
Collaborative projects like that are important to point out because they succeeded for a single reason, diversity. Diversity of experience, diversity of background, diversity of thinking. If you have five people who think the same way you’re going to get the same answer to a problem, when really you need five unique solutions to find the best one. In America we like to think we’re the best. That we’re morally further along than our backwards neighbors on our insignificant speck of dust. Yet we still fight wars over invisible and manmade borders. We treat people fleeing war, poverty, death, like human waste. We believe in freedom for all… of the people who look and think like I do.
America was founded by white people for white people. Racism was ingrained into our history and if you think it was more tolerable in that day and age, I’ve got news for you, people were fighting it then too and even though I said I wouldn’t cite my sources, Jefferson said as much himself (here, even though he was a slave owner). White supremacy was the foundation of our country, which is why police unjustly target black and brown communities, because police are modern day slave patrols, they know it, we know it, but somehow no one wants to stop it.
Of course, when this gets pointed out people scream about being unpatriotic. I’ve been accused of “not being a real veteran” whatever that’s supposed to mean, because I think we should be better than we are. Toxic patriotism is an issue because racism and white supremacy are so baked into our country that when you fight against it you’re not a patriot. You’re fighting against what the US really is and I agree.
I’m not a fan of America. I don’t like the way our country treats the people. I don’t like how our country treats our planet. I don’t like that more of our budget goes to military funding than anything else by orders of magnitude. I’m not proud of our country, our history, or our leaders. I’m certainly not proud of the general population and the fight to remain ignorant of our past sins.
I joined the Marines because I wanted to make a difference. I joined because I believed that I could help shape our country for the better. Our past does not need to be our future. America is far from perfect, but there is potential. As a country we are still young and we haven’t travelled too far down a single path to change course. Frankly I don’t think you could ever go too far to change course.
Toxic patriotism is the response to this idea. It’s a push to remain the same, but we the people deserve better. We can have better, but it’s work and that’s hard to do when the world is on fire the way it currently is. Between man-made global warming, the pandemic, and the extreme weather events (caused by global warming) we’re all tired of fighting just to live and I think in a lot of ways that’s the point. If we don’t have the energy to fight for a better future, the people in charge can do whatever they want with impunity. It’s why nothing happened after Ted Cruz fled Texas as people were dying due to the freeze and the power failures his policies caused.
We have leaders that are so far removed from the general population that they don’t know what we want or need. We have a country run by millionaires, for the benefit of billionaires. No one should be able to accumulate that much wealth, but here we are.
Forth of July is just a reminder of the toxic patriotism that has pushed us backwards. We can’t be better than we are if we never bother to move forward. The worst part about all this is that the people making the policies are the same people that want to hold us back and they are passing laws to make sure they can’t be held accountable or removed from the office they have.
That’s not the America I was promised. That’s not the vision I was sold. If all men are created equal then it’s about time we started acting like it. Of course, what the founding fathers said and did are two different things, which is probably part of the reason we are in this mess to begin with. We have a lot of hard choices to make in our lifetime. Sure we could do nothing, but that will cost us and if we as a species even manage to live long enough (which at this point, that feels highly questionable) it will cost the next generation even more.
Don’t get me wrong, fourth of July should be a time to relax and I’m all for having a day off. I just regret that we have to tie toxic patriotism to days like this. Maybe that’s just me though.