No, I’m Not Leaving
Over the 4th of July holiday, I ran into a lot of toxic patriotism. Given the current state of our nation, it makes sense that there would be some mixed feelings about celebrating our nation’s birthday.
For many people of color, it’s hard to celebrate freedom when we are still being gunned down in the streets or our homes, or murdered in police custody. It’s hard to get excited about a holiday that is all about how our country proclaimed freedom from religious persecution, but unless you’re an Evangelical Christian, your religion still makes you a target for harassment, or someone else’s religion can be used to legally discriminate against you. It’s hard to celebrate the men who arrived on these shores and pillaged the indigenous land and persecuted and enslaved others for profit.
It’s perfectly okay that some people don’t feel super patriotic right now. I am admittedly one of those people. As I struggle with identity as a mixed race woman in the middle of a race war, and I struggle with our government leadership allowing millions of people to be sick with a virus when we are fully capable of enforcing systems that will mitigate the contagion rate, it makes sense that I’m feeling embarrassed and ashamed to be an American at this point in history. The world has looked to the U.S. as a leader for my entire life, and in the past four years, we’ve pulled out of national treaties, had our commander in chief glorify oligarchs, and have been barred from visiting other countries around the world because we’ve so horribly mismanaged a public health crisis. All while our police are murdering black people for non-violent crimes in non-threatening situations. It’s appalling. I have a right to be pissed. And because I’m American, I can do so without fearing retribution from the government (Toxic Tom and Patriotic Patty I can handle).
At some point, we have developed this overwhelmingly toxic idea of what it means to be patriotic. The idea that we should bleed red and blue and be proud of our country at all costs is outright nationalist. The voices that subscribe to this propaganda were out in full force this weekend.
It seems that at some point it was decided that if we don’t worship our flag (which goes against the Christian teachings of idolatry, btw) and revere our military as heroes for protecting what that flag means, then we aren’t allowed to consider ourselves patriots. At all. In fact, on more than one occasion this weekend, I was told both indirectly and directly, that if I didn’t like it, then I can leave.
Why would I do that? This land is my land as much as it is yours. And the freedoms that our flag provides allows me to be disappointed in our country right now and still be an American. It allows me the ability to find admiration for the sacrifices that our military families make without agreeing with the actions our military leaders take. In fact, I would say that voicing our dissent in our government and actively working to change the things we don’t like is what makes our country unique. And I honor that.
The very idea that my being ashamed of our country at this point in history means I should leave is rooted in fascism and leads to dangerous territory. Fascist leaders rise to power through oppression of the voices of opposition.
Our government was born of the ideas of dissenters. It was created by men who believed that our “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That means that it is my duty to voice my concerns about our country. Dissent is a healthy part of democracy.
Democracy empowers me to make a change if I am dissatisfied with the order of things. It allows me to speak up and voice my concerns in a public forum without fear of death or retribution. If I am disappointed in the way things are in my country, I don’t have to leave. I just have to vote.
If you are not yet registered to vote for the upcoming election in November, do so today by visiting www.vote.org or checking your local secretary of state office website for instructions on registering and registration deadlines.