I love my country.
This is, well, not exactly news to me, I mean, I’ve always been sort of vaguely in favor of defending the United States of America. And, I mean, I’ve sworn some oaths to uphold the laws of the land and protect the interests of the American people, etc. So I might even have been more patriotic than a lot of folks.
But this year, 2017, has made something painfully clear to me. Painful, like endless sandpaper abrasions, painful like a bad sunburn, painful like a pulled back muscle that aches when I breathe.
I’m a patriot. I actually… I love my country. I’m invested in it, in its continued existence, success, and welfare. I want the U.S. to grow and learn and become better for its citizens and for the world.
I didn’t know that until I was scared I wasn’t going to have it.
I’ve often been cynical about my government. The Gulf War, the Clinton impeachment, the refusal of the federal government to acknowledge the existence of AIDS, the Iran-Contra hearings, the second Gulf War. The war on drugs, the CIA in Central America, the three-strikes laws, don’t ask don’t tell. There’s a lot to inspire cynicism. But I never thought very deeply about what I wanted for and from the United States. I never tried to imagine what I wanted instead of what we had.
The current national leadership has made me realize everything I want for the U.S., by threatening to take it away. Now, some of these things have never been an actual reality. Racial equity? Nope, never been real. Restorative justice? Naw. Equal rights for women? Still not a thing. But I thought, I thought, for the last couple of years I thought, we would get there. Slowly, tediously, with setbacks, we would get there.
And now I’m afraid that we won’t.
So now, now I am a patriot. A fighter for my country.
The country I fight for is one that has never really existed. I do not want to “make America great again” because I know all too well that greatness for some has always been purchased with the lives of others. I do not want to go back to any part of American history. I want to go forward. I fight, I argue, I call, I give, I protest, I march for an America I have never seen but which I believe in with all my heart.
The America I stand for is one which believes in basic rights for all people. One that believes that the wealth of a nation best serves its most vulnerable citizens, and puts this believe into practice.
I believe in an America that holds people to their word, that turns its back on liars and thieves, that protects people from the dishonest and fraudulent. In an America that values all people within its borders for the accomplishments they may yet contribute to our world, not for citizenship or physical appearance or place of birth. In an America that values families of all compositions and expresses this value by supporting the health and welfare of those families.
The America in my heart values truth, science, and education. It makes decisions about the future based on the painstaking work of learning about the past and present. In this America we turn our immense power and wealth towards improving the planet for the future of all species, because it is in our obvious best interests to do so.
In my America, we colonize other worlds while at the same time we feed the hungry, heal the sick, and educate all.
I have never in my life lived in my America.
But that’s no kind of fucking reason to stop fighting for it.
I do not believe the story the liars of this nation tell. They say greed is good. They say that vile outsiders are coming to rape and rob and kill us. They say uteruses and breasts are valuable, but women are worthless. They say the lives of the wealthy are worth more than the poor, that some people are being punished by god and deserve to die. They say black men are monsters and Muslims are terrorists and Latinos are thieves, and I do not believe their endless lies. They say science is a lie and that only they speak the truth, and I do not believe.
They say there is never enough. They say that we must fight and kill each other over scraps because there will never be enough, they say we must hate and mistrust each other and be grateful for the little we are given.
These are lies, and they are not true of the country I fight for. They are not true of the America in which I believe.
There is enough. There can be enough. We can have universal basic income, we can have universal health care. We can stop insisting that food and medicine are realms of profiteering. We can insist on science. We can insist on truth. We can reduce and reform the laws of the land to remove the ability to profit from slavery. We can believe women and people of color and those who are victimized.
We can be better.
I believe we will be better.
And so I find myself a patriot, here in the year of 2017, with this government under criminal investigation and a world on the edge of ecological collapse. I like my America better than the one being offered to me right now. It’s a world worth fighting for.
I’m a patriot.
I hope you are, too.