When I was a little boy, we used to go to my Aunt Donna's house to watch the fireworks on Independence Day. I never separated the fireworks from what they celebrated. I don't remember a time in my life, not as far back as I can remember, when I didn't love this country with all my heart. That I didn't swell with pride at the sight of the flag, or the sound of the Anthem, or the presence of a soldier in uniform.
I can't stop thinking about the current climate in America. The division. The denouncing of every opinion that doesn't go along with the mob. The pronouncement of labels like "hate" and "racist" on EVERY person who dare to disagree or offer dissent. We NEVER used to be this way. I learned the preamble to the Constitution in Richard Farmer"s eighth grade Social Studies class. I could fire it off today without hesitation. I wonder if HIGH SCHOOL graduates even know that we have a preamble...or have read the Constitution.
I never liked the Confederate flag, I thought Civil War re enactors were just sore losers. But I NEVER would have considered demonizing them...or outlawing them.
Now, years later, I see them being treated with hatred. HATRED! In my lifetime!
This isn't about gay marriage. It's about rainbow flood lights on the White House. The White House is not a billboard. It's not a scoreboard for SCOTUS decisions. It's not to be used for flipping the bird and alienating whatever half of the country "lost" in the latest social battle.
It's sacred, that house. So sacred that even Richard Nixon, who desired that office so desperately for so many years and did so much to finally attain it...including the poor judgment of Watergate...still considered that house more important than himself and resigned rather than denigrate the house and office he occupied.
We don't live there anymore.
I wonder how many people under 40 in this country still get a lump in their throat, and tears in their eyes when they sing The National Anthem. Or when they hear Ray Charles' incredible "America?" I wonder how many read the Declaration of Independence through tears...just THINKING about the courage it took to write and sign something like that. I wonder how many still see the Statue of Liberty and think of grandparents to whom she called over the distance of oceans and continents until they left everything and made their way here...like my grandparents did. I wonder how many love this country enough to do ANYTHING difficult on her behalf anymore.
I'm sick of Christianity being blamed for the state of this country. Faith has been systematically purged from this country over the last 30 years or so...And LOOK AT US! Tell me where we're better! Tradition and heritage and patriotism...even jingoistic patriotism...has been mocked and ridiculed and vilified. Tell me what great thing has filled the vacuum?!
I want to cry. I want to find the middle of this nation...someplace where her heart is, and lay down on the ground and weep. I want to go back to that field trip we took to Washington DC when I was maybe 12 years old and be awestruck again by the capital of my nation.
But I can't. I want to. But I can't. I can't even BE that American anymore. That American is dangerous, he's outdated and "hateful" and "bigoted" and "angry." It's 2:30 am and I'm typing this through tears. It's all gone. Patriotism, respect, honor, history, passionate discourse and debate...It's all considered evil now. Crazy. Dangerous.
In my short lifetime we've moved from rousing patriotism to the last, tragic days of the greatest nation in history.
We walked willingly down the path.
This isn't about the gay marriage decision, or Obamacare, or Charleston. It's about being REAL AMERICANS again. Different but united. Disagreeing passionately but DEFENDING the right to disagree. Stopping with the stupid "I'm offended!" crap. Considering the nation as more important than our petty agendas. Deciding to just GET OVER IT, when somebody won't bake us a damned WEDDING CAKE! Changing public opinion by the lives we lead...not by suing somebody, or claiming offense.
Being fiercely PATRIOTIC...fiercely AMERICAN...which means letting somebody fly a flag we detest, or embrace an idea we disagree with. Unabashedly proclaiming that we are the best, that we are unique, that we are EXCEPTIONAL. Fighting side by side for the things we should fight for, and laying down our wounded feelings and candy-assed claims of being "offended" when we don't get our way. That is how truly independent...truly free people act.
Saturday is Independence Day. I wonder if it will be our last.