It’s July Fourth. After another year of watching our elected leaders in Washington continue the process of turning a proud and powerful people into a petty and scared one, I have decided to make another attempt to wake some people up. Just this once, I decided to explain what patriotism means to me – in case some fool out there thinks that because I constantly criticize my government that I’m unpatriotic.
Patriotism is paying my taxes, even though I know the money will be used poorly and wind up doing no good. Patriotism is writing one more letter to that Senator or Representative, even though you heartily believe that it’s bound for the landfill instead of the desk. Patriotism is calling out a leader you like, and have much in common with for supporting a piece of legislation you despise – just because it’s bad law.
Patriotism is knowing that the telecommunications companies have spent the last decade cheating the American people – and then spending a great deal of time opposing telecomm immunity, and working for net neutrality. Patriotism is backing the creation of a national broadband infrastructure plan – knowing full well that it will put billions of dollars into the pockets of the same telecommunications companies that have spent decades ripping us off. Patriotism is swallowing your bile end doing it anyway so that some punk kid in East Podunk gets access to the great opportunities for education and personal growth that the Internet provides, and will provide.
Patriotism is being an author and still believing that copyright is too long, and too powerful right now. Patriotism is being a programmer and inventor and believing that patents, as they exist today, are evil. Patriotism is knowing that $4+/gal gasoline is bad for your wallet, and going straight into the pockets of people and companies you hate – and also knowing that expensive gas is good for our long term health as a nation. Patriotism is using a bicycle to go to the grocery store. Patriotism is voting your conscience instead of your wallet when the two differ.
Patriotism is caring enough about the troops that you did everything possible to keep them from going to war in the first place. Patriotism is understanding that if one or two come home in one piece it will be a miracle – and that the rest will bear scars, physical and mental, for the rest of their lives. Patriotism is doing everything possible to give those people a decent quality of life – even though it’s expensive, and even when you opposed the wars that got them hurt.
Patriotism is about getting your hands dirty. Patriotism is about doing the work – political and otherwise. Patriotism is about becoming, once again, a nation that is not afraid to be open, take risks and dare. It’s about being a people who rejects torture not because it can’t, in some circumstances, save a few lives – but because principles are important. It’s about saying “Americans don’t do that” – and holding our heads up, even when it’s difficult – and even when it hurts. Patriotism is about daring. It’s about being willing to dream, and willing to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work required to make those dreams real.
To hell with it. I’m done. No-one is going to read this damned thing anyway – and even if someone does it won’t do any good. Try to have a better 4th of July than me.