Wednesday, July 4, 2012

patriotism on Independence Day

On this Fourth of July, this Independence Day in the U.S. of A., I recognize that I am not much of a patriot.

Today there will be flags and cemeteries and parades. There will be words like "heroism" and "sacrifice" and "land of liberty" and "one nation" and other eruptions of annual ardor.

The American Revolution was long and hard and bloody and the colonists finally threw off their British masters. Hence a day to celebrate a hard-fought independence.

There will be fireworks screaming into the night skies and exploding with a brightness that inspires the onlooker to exhale an "ahhhh" or "ooooo" or "wow." It is compelling and I love it as much as the next fellow.

And yet when I examine the "patriotism" that town-square speakers utter without fear of contradiction or investigation, I fall short. Flags and fireworks are lovely. Sincere or implacable speech can be rousing.

But the exhalation that was "oooo" in one moment, the patriotism of flag-wavers, leaves me gasping for air. Exhalations pass, inhalations arise ... moving, living and not open to the blandishments of a parade route. The patriotism of 'patriots' ... well, it's their business.

I do like to try -- and more often than not fail -- to take stock of my surroundings. What is the environment I live in? What are my responsibilities and capacities within that environment? How much harm can I avoid doing? Which crops can I grow and which are beyond my abilities? Can I lend a hand without expectation? Can I steer clear of exhortations that do not breathe and morph and wane in their time? And can such a litany of reflection have anything to do with patriotism?

I haven't got a clue. It's just the best, if limping, patriotism I can muster.

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