The 4th of July and Understanding American Patriotism

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quick! What are three things that people do on the 4th of July?

If you answered: canvassing, voter registration, and wearing a VoteBot suit, then you are correct! Oh, and there may have been some fireworks thrown in there somewhere.

Although this way of celebrating the 4th of July is also atypical for me, it has gotten me thinking about all the different ways people can view and celebrate this momentous American holiday.

The 4th of July does not find me consuming copious amounts of alcohol, barbecuing, or flying a giant flag. I am not one to go out and see the fireworks, instead often opting to stay home and comfort my cats as they freak out about the loud noises (well, except for this year where my job is asking me to canvass potential youth voters). But I don't feel that any of these things paints me as less American. What then, does it mean to celebrate this holiday in an "American" way?

With all the political work I do, I feel assured of my investment in some American systems (or at least the positivity to think that they can change for the better). But some might question my Americanness on the grounds of other exterior factors - race and political affiliation in particular. Being a liberal progressive and often holding views that are contrary to United States business and foreign policy, I have gotten a lot of sideways glances about my patriotism. But, from my perspective, that's kind of like assuming that liberals have no religion. A hearty joke to some, these statements often make it seem like liberals cannot be complex multi-faceted people, as if we have a doctrine that we all adhere to. Pointing out racial difference has a different flavor - those people assume an "othering" stance with a moral superiority that states I am only beholden to my skin color and thus am bereft of some magic ingredient that creates Americans.

In any case, it's tricky talking about patriotism for a liberal woman of color.

I believe that anyone who feels like they want to make this country better is a patriot. We cannot have demarcations for those who believe in one thing over another; although I may not agree with many conservative viewpoints, I must assume best intent if they are to call themselves patriots. Blatant self-promotion and personal gain at the expense of the country is unpatriotic, but of course everyone must draw the line for themselves.

In the meantime, I'll be hanging out with the cats and letting my geek flag fly instead.

Let me know how the 4th of July went for you in the comments!