Sunday, July 3, 2005

Thoughts on July 4

Scalzi's weekend assignment this week is to write an Independence Day haiku.  I just can't do it.  My thoughts on July 4 are so jumbled I can't possibly gather them all into 17 syllables.

When I was a kid, I learned all the patriotic songs.  I'd wave the flag and dance around the living room.  The flag stood for "the greatest country on earth."  Freedom, justice, the American way.  All that good stuff.

When I got a little older, distrust and skepticism of government were all the rage.  Patriotism was considered corny.  Flags didn't get waved.

It all changed on September 11.  All of a sudden everyone waved American flags.  And it meant something.  Shared grief.  Solidarity.  A wordless promise that we would come together and prevent this from ever happening again. 

Changed again.  I am not happy with where my country is right now.  American men and women are dying in a war we entered on false pretenses.  (Weapons of mass destruction?  Where?)  American soldiers are torturing people based on a government determination that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and no longer applicable.  Certain ultra-conservative types are pushing for an anti-flag burning amendment -- a position which has somehow manged to link support of the flag with support of their other political and social positions. 

I feel as though if I went out and waved the flag on July 4, I would be mistaken for someone who supports our continued involvement in Iraq, our by-any-means-necessary strategy for the war on terror, a prohibition against abortion, and an anti-gay-rights agenda.  It bothers me that Americans with beliefs so different from mine have managed to co-opt our flag as a symbol for their own agenda. 

I would like to think that waving the flag also stands for the America I'd like to see -- an America of promise, of individual rights, of respect for everyone; a country that is known the world over not only for its economic leadership, but for leading the way in solutions to the world's problems of hunger, disease, and depleting resources -- rather than simply being widely considered as an aggressor in an unnecessary war.  I wish the flag would stand for a country that fills me with pride, both for its accomplishments and the course on which it is set for the future -- but I'm afraid it doesn't right now. 

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