A dangerous brand of patriotism.

19 Oct

(The title of the post was inspired by this article on cnn.com;
it is well worth reading in its entirety.)

“What is our excuse today for not voting?

Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.”¹

~ * ~

During this most horrible (and interminable) Presidential election, so many ugly undercurrents of life in the USoA have been brought to stark relief.

The fact that a good 30+ millions of white US citizens hate at worst, despise at best, those US citizens who are not white; that, in truth, so many white people don’t believe that non-white people can or should be full citizens of this country.

The fact that for a good percentage of Christians of all stripes in the US, people of different religions or ethnicity are not as human, or as deserving of humane treatment, compassion, or freaking Christian charity, as themselves.

The fact that misogyny is so internalized across the gender spectrum that adult human beings can defend,² with a straight face and for the record (on camera), a newly married 59 year old man bragging (also on camera), to a 34 year old man, about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it; the fact that there are adult human beings who can claim that such behaviour belongs to the ‘boys will be boys’ category.

The fact that misogyny runs so deep in so many, that someone like the current Republican nominee for President, born in a golden craddle, could mobilize them against the first female candidate for President from a major political party, by appealing to their basest fears and feelings.

The fact that there are tens of millions of people who are so afraid of self analysis and introspection, that they become terrified of a man–or children–kneeling while the national anthem plays.

The fact that there are so many millions of people here, in this, the most powerful and richest nation on Earth, living in poverty and hunger and despair, while the government–by the people, for the people–plays politics for years, instead of serving their needs.

And yet, there is hope–because there are many more millions of US citizens who are decent people. There are many more who are willing to learn from this, and to work towards a ‘more perfect union’ where ‘we the people’ means ALL of us–and not just a privileged few.

But that hope will only crystallize if and when all of them take action, and exercise their right, their duty to themselves and their country, and vote.

~ * ~

¹ Full text of President Obama’s speech at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches.

² Some of the content of that article, and certainly some of the links in it, may be triggering for victims of sexual assault.

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One Response to “A dangerous brand of patriotism.”

  1. Dorine 20/10/2016 at 11:06 AM #

    So well said. Thank you!

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