We rail against gun culture, the gross injustice of capitalism, and the disintegrating lines between church and state. Some may say, for these reasons and others, that we hate America. But I’ve got a secret for you: I’m going to whisper it so I don’t have to turn in my lefty hippie commie card…
Liberals are patriotic.
For real though. In fact, most of us would argue that we hold the values above BECAUSE we love our country. We love equal opportunity, and government free from the tyranny of religious doctrine. Most of us even value the “right to bear arms,” IN THEORY. We just don’t think you need to conceal carry an AR-15 to walk to, you know, the grocery store. And we’d rather our neighbors didn’t either.
But. I will not try to speak for all the self-professed progressive lefty hippie types out there. I will just tell you why I got a little sniffly at a Veteran’s Day concert this morning. (And it isn’t just because I have a gross cold).
The patriotic concert was at my daughter’s elementary school. It was a big crowd–tight quarters, hot and stuffy, loud–all of my least favorite things! I also had a squirmy, bored 5 year old climbing me the whole time. And, I’m not going to lie, I struggled with the lack of inclusive language in EVERY SINGLE SONG. How hard is it to replace “men” with “ones” or “them” every now and then? When, clearly, some of the vets in the crowd are girls?? (Note: it’s not hard!)
And yet…for all that… I got choked up more than once during the short program. My inner curmudgeon was like what is happening right now?? I am immune to this stuff! Ice in my veins, baby. Because i do not believe in blindly emotional nationalism– and also I DO NOT CRY. Nope. Not that girl.
So I did a quick gut-check to determine why I was feeling so positively… PATRIOTIC… I’m guessing it was some combination of:
-The overwhelming beauty and amazingness of nearly 100 First Graders singing the Star Spangled Banner, knowing every word and nailing every high note. And the wonder of what a good music teacher can do with such young children. God bless America, indeed, and our (mostly) commitment to free public education for one and all. If that is patriotism, sign me up.
-The old guy in the Navy Seals hat–a little misty-eyed himself– standing up to salute the flag and wave to his grandkids on stage. I can’t even. He…now HE is allowed to talk to me about sacrifice, and service, and values. NOT THE BLOW HARDS ON FOX NEWS OR THE CBN. But this guy, for sure.
-Thinking of my great uncles who died mysterious deaths in far-away places; and my grandparents and great grandparents–and so many others–who got word through a cold hard telegram, and carried the weight it their whole lives long.
-Thinking of my friend who is about to have a baby, while her husband is stationed at Guantanamo. And thinking of all the families like them who are preparing for Thanksgiving apart. Again. #gratitude
-And, gratitude for my military chaplain friends who fight the good fight for interfaith discourse and LGBT inclusion in service–in spite of hard wired ideology that is not always open to their voices.
-The oft-unseen role of our military –to land in regions torn by natural disaster, famine or pandemic and bring aid. While we see mostly war and battle in the news, they wade into the ashes, the rubble, the aftermath of chaos and deliver, in person, the goodwill of the free world.
-The diversity of faces–both in the children onstage and in the standing veterans in the audience. Our neighborhood is not quite as white-washed as one would think the Kansas suburbs would be. I saw a sea of black and white, Asian and hispanic and Indian…
And or me–for many of us–THAT is America. The great melting pot of culture and race; the song of we were all strangers once, and tell us your story, and “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” That’s the flag I will salute proudly, the anthem I will sing by heart every time I hear the opening strains.
Which is why, I guess, I also had some tears of grief. Regret. And concern for the America my kids might inherit. The one where:
-Veterans are honored verbally, but come home to little opportunity for work, and little support for the wounds they sustained–physical and otherwise–in service.
-Where public education is valued, in theory, but defunded by politicians who have been bought and paid for by corporations, with other, presumably sinister purposes for our tax dollars.
-Where healthcare is becoming a privilege for the privileged few–and the people making that so are proud of it.
-Where public assistance is granted with increasing hostility and decreasing effectiveness; and those who do receive it are demonized for their own need.
-Where we boast some of the most stunningly beautiful landscape on the planet, but people with an alarming amount of power continue to deny that our consumptive habits are destroying the very air we breathe, not to mention the pretty stuff we look at.
-Where a narrative of scarcity and fear of other wins elections, big time. And hateful bigotry passes for faith and freedom, and that, too, sells big.
-Where guns are gods, and unbridled access to them is not up for discussion, ever.
-Where the teaching and preaching of peace has been effectively marketed as anti-America, and anti-military.
-Where nationalism and entitlement pass for the literal, actual gospel of Jesus Christ, and anybody who isn’t from here must be a dang terrorist.
That’s the America that I feel like is running for President right now. And while I do not believe in living fearfully, I do struggle with great concern that so many people choose the fearful and exclusive god/country/story, over the beautiful and peaceable one that I glimpsed today.
In honor of Veteran’s Day I will say, without irony–May God bless America. May God bless us to be generous with our abundance and our borders; to do well by our children, protecting their air and water from the backwash of our grievous excesses, and to invest in their education rather than their prison cell. May God bless the men and women who serve us–while they serve, and after they come home. May God bless the vision of hope and freedom that brought us here, and teach us to honor that dream without having to kill the rest of the world. Amen.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to celebrate Veteran’s Day in hope for the America that is becoming, rather than regret for the one we haven’t achieved yet –I suggest you find some grade school kids and ask them to tell you about America. Or better yet, have them sing it to you.
So call me a liberal, I guess. But when someone says ‘liberal’ in a clearly disparaging way, I hear only “one who values liberty.” And tell me to love it or leave it. I will tell you, without hesitation, that I love it. I love it for what it is, and what it has been; but I love even more what it might be. If we would all just remember where we came from.