July 4, 2008

What Patriotism Means To Me

Man, that title sounds like a fourth grade essay assignment! I wasn't going to bother with a 4th of July post this year, at lest not one focused on the usual themes of the day, but then Stardust asked what patriotism means to us. The question is too intriguing to pass up. So what does patriotism mean to me?

In a nutshell, patriotism means giving a damn. It means caring enough about one's country and the people in it to act in order to make it better. This is precisely why the right-wing mantras like "love it or leave it" infuriate me so. If I didn't think my country was worth the effort, I wouldn't expend any. It is precisely because I love my country that I want to improve it.

And just what needs improvement? Here are just a few examples off the top of my head in no particular order:

  1. The U.S. needs universal health care. It is absurd that we would be the only Western democracy who still hasn't managed to pull this off. But the good news is that we have plenty of effective models for how to do so (and some probably not so effective).
  2. The U.S. needs to reduce the widening income inequality which now threatens our democracy. This is not a topic I've addressed much here, but it is a problem that has become considerably worse during my lifetime. There are fairly obvious solutions that tend to be politically unpopular but are nevertheless necessary.
  3. The role of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy needs to be restored. Military force certainly has a role too, but it cannot be a reflexive response.
  4. The U.S. needs to get serious about reducing dependence on foreign oil. This is already a matter of national security and will continue to be even more so as oil supplies dwindle.
  5. The U.S. needs to invest in our domestic infrastructure. This is not just a matter of national security (which it is) but could provide a massive boost to our troubled economy.
  6. To preserve our role as a future power, the U.S. needs to do a better job of funding public education. Science education needs to be protected from those who seek to dismantle it.
  7. The American people need to recognize that the separation of church and state is part of what makes our country distinct. We need to embrace the benefits of a secular democracy and stop trying to rewrite history. Our history in this regard is worth celebrating, and it is time to acknowledge that.
I could continue on and probably fill up many pages, but that is not necessary to make the point I am attempting to make. That is, I want the U.S. to be the greatest nation on Earth, serving as a shining example worth emulating. This is patriotism. Stubbornly insisting that America is perfect and condemning those calling for improvement is mere idiocy.

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