Written by Kevin Hower Wednesday, 02 July 2008 11:08The Fourth of July is almost upon us again. Patriotism and what this country means to me have been on my mind, particularly in this chaotic election year.
I found this quote the other day by the late Rabbi Sherwin Wine, who I think did a wonderful job of summarizing many of my opinions on this subject:
“There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our Puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.
“The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.
“This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.”
There are places in the world right now where people are still being put on trial for witchcraft and sorcery—in the 21st century. That just blows my mind, and quite honestly it makes me sad and angry. Those people don’t have to have their lives ruined over ridiculous, superstitious nonsense that should have been extinguished long ago by the Enlightenment.
Hearing about irrationality like that reminds me how lucky I am to live here in the Unites States.
Something else I wish some people would grasp is that we can support our troops regardless of what our personal feelings are about the war or about President Bush. So, to all those who have ever served in the military—especially to those who gave their lives in the service of this country—thank you for being there for all of us.
Our Founding Fathers had a great idea when they began this nation. I love my country and its people, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
We certainly have some issues to overcome, though, but some people seem to feel that if persons criticize this country, they’re attacking it. In some cases, that may be true, but many of us criticize America because we love it and want to make it better.
It’s like saying, “I love this painting by Michelangelo, but it needs a bit of repair and restoration.”
I certainly don’t know the precise answers to our problems—I don’t think anyone really knows all those answers, no matter what they claim. It’s part of being human; we just keep on doing the best we can and gradually improve and grow in our knowledge.
What I especially want is for every single human being to have the same freedoms and rights that we in the United States now enjoy, and then some.
I find the words of Garth Brooks’ song “We Shall be Free” to be very inspiring in that sense. He sings about, “When the last man dies for just words that he said.... When we’re free to love anyone we choose, when this world’s big enough for all different views, when we all can worship from our own kind of pew.... When there’s only one race and that’s mankind.”
I try to be realistic because history and human nature unfortunately tend to contradict that kind of idealism, but I firmly believe these are goals for which we should all strive.
I hope you enjoy your Independence Day with its fireworks, barbecues and other fun activities. But most especially the time spent with your family and friends.