Today is the fourth of July, a holiday I've never been too fond of--my mom and I used to watch 1776 every year and then go to the park for fireworks (fireworks being illegal in our town except for the municipal show). It's not an ok thing to say these days, but I'm not by nature a patriotic person. I love the earth, and humans, and mountains and seas and lions and icebergs, but I can't really get on board with love it or leave it or my country right or wrong or these colors don't run. Countries are constructs--and their borders change all the time. Life is not radically different when I cross the Canadian border. Edna St. Vincent Millay's Not for a Nation is a pretty good sum up of my feelings on all this. I am certainly grateful for my relatively high standard of living--but I do not believe if I were born in similar economic circumstances in France or Canada I would be significantly worse off. Nor do I really like the we're better than x y or z game. Six of one, first world representative democracy of another.
I mean, the fact is, a substantial portion of my country right or wrong thinks that I and people like me should be brutally repressed at best and killed off at worst. And such is their power that in this free country I am afraid to make this post saying I'm just not that into forced displays of patriotism, because it'll almost certainly have negative blowback and what if someone finds it? Not a great situation. Yet people who wear their flag pins and report their neighbors and devour a certain channel's invective say things online all the time that I feel actually contributes to the destruction of this country and whatever good is in it. And they aren't afraid at all.
I don't hate freedom or anything like that. I've just lived outside the US a lot, and I didn't somehow lose my immortal soul by not breathing American air. I just don't like being whipped into a froth by a system that needs my fervent adulation so that it can do what it likes with impunity, assured that I will never think too hard about it. The irony is that it is oh-so-American to say fuck it and bury your head in New England. Or maybe not. Maybe nothing is essentially American. Tend thy own garden, sayeth Voltaire.
Mandatory displays of nationalism freak me out a little, actually. Ultimately, once I went through my experience with the military, which never met a mandatory display of nationalism it didn't like, with the daily threat of someone I loved dying for a war neither of us believed was just or right, I just couldn't do the how am I going to incorporate red white and blue into my wardrobe thing anymore, even on the 4th. Back then there seemed to be a serious threat of a draft, one in which women would be included, and it seemed comically horrible that I should be called upon to kill humans I had no issue with. That my husband had volunteered to do so. I wasn't even living in the country I was supposed to love so much I'd kill and let my family die for. The country that conveniently delivered the absentee ballots of the registered Democrats on base just a little too late. It all just looked like theater to me, and that feeling has lingered.
Maybe it makes me cynical. It certainly makes me a bad patriot--but you don't need a loyalty oath to blog. Like religion, the sentiment is noble, but the structure built around it is deeply corrupt and more cynical than I will ever be. Like religion, I struggle with it. Politics have hurt my soul for a long time. I can't really follow them anymore--it's like following a sport where every game is fixed, but if you don't cheer loudly enough, you're shunned. There are things I love about America and American culture--Thoreau and Dickinson and Yosemite and awful, fucked-up and sparkling old Hollywood, art deco New York, Carhenge, the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur, William Carlos Williams, Lake Erie and my old home Cleveland, the Fremont Troll, pumpkin pie, Disneyland, maple syrup festivals and wool festivals and Peaks Island and Poe and the St. Lawrence river and the Mississippi and certain traveling bards and the Painted Desert and the Scandanavian neighborhoods in Minneapolis and the Rockies and autumn in New England. I love Maine--but not the state, not the construct, not the state Republican Party's new platform, the people and the land and the water, the islands and the fishermen and the farms and the moose. The ducks and the pumpkins and the frigid sounding sea.
Not in that list? The people I pay my taxes too every year. I am not required to love them. I am required to obey their rules reasonably, disent peaceably when I can, vote, and give them my money. My love I reserve for the actual world around me and the humans in it, not a faceless political entity.
For all of those beautiful things I will send up fireworks and watch them glow. But not for a nation, no.