Is it just me, or has July the 4th lost its luster? The summer celebration of our Independence has come a long way since the days when my friends and I would stand around in bare feet holding sparklers in the backyard, taking turns spraying each other down with the garden hose, while the grownups sang patriotic songs. Occasionally, someone would break out a patriotic reading that would make me think that I lived in the most amazing country on the face of the earth.
I’m speaking of a period of time that covers the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was 12 years old or so and unaware of the complexities of international politics. It’s not like I’m recalling an era where we were united as a nation, far from it. This was a time filled with the Vietnam War, protests in the street, a time where beloved national leaders like Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and even villains like George Wallace were getting shot and killed. But despite all the internal fights, there was a feeling that these were family fights. As much as Americans might disagree about things, it was still very much “us” vs. the world. Those long-haired protesters in the streets may have been weirdoes but they were “our” weirdoes.
Today seems different somehow and I think I know why. When I look out across the country today, I see just as many divisions as there have ever been in American political life. We are fragmented into interest groups, divided by ideology and culture. But for me there isn’t one interest group in America today, be they blacks, Latinos, gays and lesbians, unions, or Tea Partiers that I distrust as much as I distrust my own government. Inside of me is the seed of an idea that has changed my notions of patriotism and cast a shadow over July the 4th. It’s the realization that my government has been compromised by the governing class, an oligarchy of self interested politicians who care not for the ideal of America. They are united in their quest for power and control and view the citizenry as an obstacle to overcome. They hold us in contempt precisely because we aren’t them. We don’t know what’s best for us and therefore, it’s perfectly acceptable to spy on us, strip away our rights, and eviscerate our constitution.
Make no mistake; this is a bipartisan usurpation. President Obama and John Boehner have much more in common with each other than they do with any of us. The goals and aspirations of the ruling class are only rarely aligned with ours, and as long as they can keep us focused on fighting each other as Democrats and Republicans, we won’t have time to fight…them.
So, this July the 4th, I will eat a hamburger and a hotdog. The yard will be decorated with flags and bunting. I will still be proud to be an American, and grateful for the accident of birth that placed me in this great land. But my pride will come from the power of blood and soil and the legacy of our great history, not from what it has become in 2013.