It’s July 4, two hundred forty two years to the day since the United States declared independence from England. Like most Americans, I’ve spent parts of the last two or three days eating grilled hot dogs, listening to music, and watching fireworks.
Over the years I’ve been the flag-waving, patriotic t-shirt wearing, kill-a-commie-for-your-mommy type who never missed honoring fallen heroes on Memorial Day or saluting those who served on Veteran’s Day, and I was absolutely MISTER FOURTHOFJULY. On multiple occasions I’ve been to DC on our nation’s birthday, watching from the steps of the Capitol building as the National Symphony played the 1812 Overture, the greatest pyrotechnics show in the country blazing overhead. What better place to celebrate the birth of our nation than from Washington?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say my gung-ho patriotism has been wavering lately. The events of 9/11 brought us together as Americans, or at least seemed to for awhile. For me, the problems began shortly afterward. Legislation such as the dubiously-named “Patriot Act” tore at the fabric of the freedoms I so strongly believe in, and so many of the trends that were started with that onerous package of lawless laws have only gotten worse over the ensuing decade and a half. Utterly unconstitutional pieces of hogwash like Obamacare only further assaulted my sense of liberty, and when I really thought about it–really dug deep–I began to understand that these are just the latest examples of government sidestepping the fundamental principles of our founding in order to push an agenda that may have the best intentions but simply can’t stand the harsh light of human freedom. These slights to the rights of man, recognized as ours at birth and enshrined in the written words of the United States Constitution, have been perpetrated from the beginning. John Adams was there at the start, helping to bring the thing to life from the beginning, yet as President he ignored it when it was convenient to his agenda. So did such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln, who all but suspended it during the Civil War. Constitutional side-steps and similar nonsense aren’t inventions of George Bush and Barack Obama. In fact they aren’t even American. The fact is that abuses of power and the wholesale whitewashing of fundamental human rights has been going on since man first stepped out of the ocean.
I’m saddened to think this one thing, though; that we, America, were supposed to be different. Our “great experiment” was supposed to put an end to tyranny and oppression, and I honestly believe that the constitution, if honored as it was intended to be, goes a very long way toward that. The problem is that it can only be successful if the people it is intended to protect actually know they are being abused, and give a damned about it.
Sadly, most don’t. I’m not sure if it’s ignorance or apathy, the unwillingness to do something about it or the lack of strength and energy to do so. Every time I think it’s just ignorance, something leads me to believe it’s just silly people willing to trade freedom for security. When I think it’s just the wool being pulled over everyone’s eyes, I hear “Born In The USA” played at a 4th of July festival and I think “Nope…it’s ignorance”.
Who plays one of the most anti-American songs ever written during a patriotic holiday? Who allows such a thing?
Everyone. I’ve seen it three times already in the last week.
This oversimplifies things, of course. Maybe a song like that could be viewed as a wake-up call for how things need to change; or offered as an example of how we listen to every opinion, allow every point of view, even when they seem to suggest our country sucks.
Nah. It’s just a cool song that has USA in it, so everyone is fine with it. It must be patriotic, right? Sure. Pass me a beer.
I’m thinking deeply about these things lately because at the heart of it, what I’m doing with this project is declaring my dissatisfaction with how things are–specifically, how things have become, versus how they should and could be–and making an effort to do something about it. I want to do it better. I think we can, I think we must, and I’d like to do my part to make it happen. On the surface, being involved in this makes me feel decidedly unpatriotic, however. It makes me feel as if I’m somehow shouting “America SUCKS” and then trying to get out. I can’t lie; it makes me feel as if I’m being ungrateful for the good things I do have, and as if I’m dishonoring the sacrifice of those who’ve served to preserve the nation in times of war and other strife.
I’m also reminded that somewhere in the throng, I have to find the other one or two people who shake their heads when they see people waving flags and wearing “I Heart AMERICA” t-shirts while dancing to “Born In The USA” on the 4th of July. I have to find those people, and convince them that not everyone is ignorant, apathetic, lazy or over-coddled. I have to convince them of the worth of this project, and get them to commit to helping make it a reality.
And I have to do all that while trying not to feel as if I’m selling out the nation that I love.
In the back of my mind, though, I hear a voice. I’d like to think it’s the collective whispering of people like Nathan Hale and Thomas Paine, reminding me that we simply aren’t on the path we’re supposed to be, and when that happens sufficiently to be beyond course correction, the only two options left are armed revolution or peaceful withdrawal. I want no part of violence or bloodshed; I simply want an alternative to the status quo. I want something that recognizes fundamental freedom again, and uses it as a rudder to help guide the human ship in the right direction once more. I’m not looking to bring down the government–any government. I’m just looking to give people the alternative that they once had, but is no longer possible.
I have traced my lineage in this country back to the shores of Massachusetts in the year 1624, just four years after the Mayflower landed. I can honestly say that my many-greats-back-grandfather was one of the original colonists. He had to have come here seeking something better for himself and his family than he had where he left from. I believe he found it, and I’m proud to say that I and my family have prospered as a result of his making that decision. I’m proud to be descended from the original colonies, and proud in general to be an American. I really am.
I just think it’s time to have that opportunity once more, because many like me think we’re great but could be better. We just need the place, the space, to do it in. We need the freedom to make it happen, but that place doesn’t exist in the world as we know it today. We’re going to have to create it.
I’d also like to think that my colonist grandfather’s voice is whispering to me as well, telling me that it’s alright to strike out for a new world when the old one seems to be losing its way…just like he did.
There’s no shame in this. In fact, in my heart I know it’s the right thing to do. I’m a proud American, but it’s time to be something more.
One last thing; this isn’t the first time I’ve occasioned to explore this very thought pattern. It originally struck me on this day two years ago. I conceived the idea of Arca Oceanus, and took the first steps toward organizing it, on July 4, 2016. I dated the first page of the notebook in which I recorded the thumbnail of this idea, and I’ve carried it with me ever since. It is sitting right beside me at this very moment.
America and Arca Oceanus were born on the 4th of July. I wish them both a Happy Birthday, and great success in the future.
And Arca Oceanus was born in the USA, like the dude from the Springsteen song. I’m sure there are those who would see this project as being unpatriotic, the same as I see that song.
Maybe for as right as it might seem, both points of view are wrong if one looks beyond the surface.