When Patriotism Puts Fellow Americans At Risk

This has been a bat-shit crazy week in the land of the free. I was reading an article on my phone about people on Fox News advocating for Muslim internment camps in this country (Fox News later recanted) while walking through Target's dollar spot seeing all the 4th of July decor. And I just couldn't do it, you know? I couldn't look at the cute cut outs of stars and "land of the free" scrawled on flags while reading inflammatory statements about our fellow countrymen. We're actually talking about repeating one of our most incriminating acts of human rights violations because we're afraid. 90% of the terrorist attacks in America last year were committed by non-Muslims. And 309 people get shot in this country every day. No gun legislation, but let's lock up millions of people on the off chance they might be in the extreme minority and commit an act of terrorism. I was ripping my hair out in the middle of consumer heaven.

I've started struggling more and more each year when it's time to yell hurrah for America. I know how lucky I am to be an American, that I have experienced prosperity and freedom here. I am a white, middle class Christian. My parents are wealthy (though we weren't when I was young). I own my home. I am a stay at home parent. I only work when I want to because I'm self-employed. I say these things to hold both realities - that I am privileged in this country and that this country is really fucked up. 

How do we celebrate America while we actively benefit from oppression? Why the hell are we still celebrating Columbus Day for fucks sake? How can we possibly talk about holding people hostage in this country simply for being Muslim? I want to scream. Is there a way to eat Thanksgiving turkey and not be bitch-slapping the natives we stole this country from? I don't know. I really, really don't know. I know that I'm struggling more and more. And I know I'm not alone. People have been so incredibly hard on Colin Kapernick for kneeling during the National Anthem but I get what he's saying. It's exactly what I'm saying, except he's doing it from the side of a lack of racial privilege. How do you yell hurrah for the country that's actively killing your people in the streets? You don't. You kneel. And pray to God something changes. I respect that.

Is there a way to hold our gratitude for what's working, to enjoy a hot dog and fireworks while still saying, no to the active oppression of others? At what point do our celebrations have a human cost that no amount of flag-waving can deny? How do we say, thank you for your service now can we stop shooting people? I respect the military, the incredible sacrifice that military families make. Hell, I'm from a military family (my dad retired before I was born)! But does gratitude for sacrifice equate to turning a blind eye to the damage we've done to the world? What about what we're doing to the environment? Did you know that Americans with the lowest carbon footprint still pollute twice as much as the global average? We take what we want - whether that be human life, oil, water. We are greedy bitches.

What does it mean to love your country and your fellow man? Is it possible to love our country so much that we want to save it from itself? Can our patriotism be manifested in our activism? Is it possible that Colin kneeling is an act of patriotism? Is he saying, you can do better America and I'm willing to take a hit to stimulate the growth you need to be healthy? Where is the line between love for country and blind enabling? Maybe the guys screaming at each other on C-SPAN (shout out to my man, Bernie) are the ones who love America the most? 

We have an addiction to dominance. We don't know how to deescalate. Look at United Airlines! We don't know how to disagree without violence. It was embedded in our culture from the second our boats hit the shore. Is it possible for an entire nation to go to violence rehab? Is there hope for us? I know this. If there is, whether you eat a hot dog and sing the national anthem or not, the hope will only become a reality if we do something about it. Whether you're proud to be an American or you're ashamed, love your country enough to make it better. We're all we've got and we've got a hell of a long way to go.