It’s Independence Day – a day when everybody gets to pay homage to the America in their mind, even though many of those Americas look nothing alike. The America that moves me to drink copious amounts of alcohol and play with sparklers is an idea more than a piece of land. It’s liberty and justice for all; it’s a place where human innovation has led to a Utopia compared to every generation before.
The United States of America is a place where we have achieved unity through integrity. We could have achieved harmony as a society by caving to the Christians who demanded slavery as a part of god’s plan, but instead we stood firm – not because we, as a nation, felt god wanted otherwise, but because Christianity does not dictate our laws. In the early 1900s we could have had harmony by uniting against women’s suffrage, maintaining what had been the status quo of inequality up to that point. Instead we told the fighting faithful that their scriptures were irrelevant to our laws, even if the book did brand men as the decision-makers. The same is true of interracial marriage. And the same will soon be true of gay marriage. We were told that taking a stand on all of these would splinter the union, but eventually the fundamentalists came begrudgingly along.
They say we must pledge our allegiance to America, but the America in their heads is the soil, the decisions of our elected officials, and our wars. I won’t do it. I do not view America like Christians view god; that we must love her no matter the severity of her transgressions or the inhumanity of her edicts. To be a Christian apparently means to love god no matter if he drowned the world or issued barbaric, anti-human, anti-equality laws. They want to make it mean the same to call oneself a patriot: that a patriot must love America regardless of what America does – and even that one must love the same god that issued 7 commandments (and plenty of other commands) that would be the epitome of injustice if codified by our laws. It saddens me that such high value is then placed on those words, patriot and Christian, when they’re clearly something nobody should wish to be. Our devotion should be to compassion and reason, and then only to people, nations, and gods in the amount that they embody those values.
No, the America to which I pledge allegiance is a nation that does not privilege any class or group above another. It’s to value the lives of non-Americans just as much we value the lives of those who happened to be born here. It is an America that cares for the destitute. It is an America that gives the truth as revealed by facts authority over all other authorities. The America I love is a place where laws are formed based on what people can demonstrate through reason, not based upon what people merely believe. Because I love America, I must demand she be worthy of these ideals. Insofar as she realizes them, she will have my pride, my love, and the fullness of my allegiance.
Tonight I will raise a glass to America as an idea, an idea that would be a beacon to the rest of the world if ever achieved. And I’ll take the drink because we’ve been on the right track for the last 240ish years and don’t show any signs of changing course.
Here’s to the nation I truly believe America may one day be. Cheers.