By John Hessburg
Editor, The DICTION AERIE
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICA ! HAPPY 242nd BIRTHDAY !
Go ahead, American citizens -- and those who aspire to that privilege -- take a breather, toss back a cold one and share a few grins at a picnic among friends today. Let's explore a topic seldom touched by network newscasters, those high priests of cynical sniffing -- and that's down-home Patriotism. But first let's clear our minds of debris.
No reason to wallow in the daily muck and murk of the Nag-ative Media Spectrum -- that flows like a sewage stream from MSNBC on the Self-Righteous Waspish Left * to Fox News on the Paranoid Pitbull Right. **
* As in the blithering lip-tides of Rachel Maddow, who loves the sound of her own voice so passionately, it's amazing that she doesn't close each show by falling to the floor and making out with a full-length mirror.
** As in the sycophantic rants of Sean Hannity, who somehow keeps a straight face while veering so far from the pillars of journalistic integrity -- accuracy and fairness -- that one wonders if he's aspiring to farcical self-parody of some state-steered propagandist.
Before we cut loose for the 4th, launching festive driveway bottle rockets, we need to own this, Americans: we're lurching midway through another turbulent year; through heart-sickening mass murders; through scared little kids in cages keening for their Moms; through searing images of refugees, wars, wildfires, floods, unarmed civilians gunned down and one flap-eared little jughead juvenile dictator with the worst haircut in fashion history, who runs state Gulags more vicious than anything Stalin ever dreamed of, who greased his own uncle with a firing squad of anti-aircraft cannons and his half-brother with nerve toxin, and who launched ballistic missile tests over (our ally) Japan's sovereign air space yet nobody did a damn thing about it -- now being hailed by the White House as "funny," "talented" and a "strong head" of his people.
Given the de rigueur dismay, the fashionable nihilism of Millennials today, what does it really mean today -- this nebulous term "Patriotism" -- so profoundly ignored by media mouthpieces who pretend to know it all?
Simple stuff... We love our country deeply -- the same way we love our family and old friends. And that means we take the bitter with the better.
Are you maybe missing days gone by, when the Pledge of Allegiance meant something healthy to nearly all our citizens? Thirsty to see a positive passion for patriotism rolling like fresh wind through your community again? Well here's a thought: stop bitching and start pitching in. See a need in your neighborhood park, your kids' school, your church or temple, your home town? Then step up and do something about it instead of just hissing and moaning.
DO SOMETHING! Lead, follow or get out of the way. And may God bless the American Experiment in Democracy for centuries more. With do-ers not talkers.
Saints and sinners, losers and winners -- nobody's home country is perfect -- and none of our nations, none of us citizens, deserve to stand aloof from our esteemed neighbors in the G7, nor in the 2nd and 3rd Worlds.
Big oil, big dollars, big weapons, big egos -- all that means little in the long run. What makes America great is not donning a red baseball cap and waving signs like medicated cheerleaders behind the POTUS podium. What makes America great is our capacity for taking on the tasks that others are afraid or unqualified to tackle; our capacity for engaging the globe in gracious giving, in defense of the oppressed; and our willingness to admit mistakes then work hard to make things better -- even when that means giving up our own comfort, time and treasure.
Here's a prime example. After the devastating tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004 killed some 230,000 people in 14 countries circling the Indian Ocean, oil-rich Saudi Arabia pledged $30 million in aid. The USA rushed in more than 11 times that -- $350 million. Now, most of the death toll (more than 200,000) was in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation with widespread grinding poverty. That did little to inspire the ultra-wealthy Saudis, whose initial offering was a mere $10 million. Then outraged nations across the globe slapped their cheeks for weeks until the Saudis dug deeper. However, as ever, the USA ponied up a generous sum & began shipping food, water and medical supplies to the victims almost immediately.
Need more reasons to feel patriotic about the USA?
OK, there's the American Spirit of Invention, the list of periodically stunning innovations that literally swept our planet into the Age of High Technology: from the phonograph, the telegraph, the telephone, the light bulb, to the airplane, the automobile assembly line, the motorcycle, movies, the moon landing, the solar cell, the electric guitar, cable TV, the space shuttle, the personal computer, video games and the smart phone.
Oh, nearly forgot -- on the cultural side there are a few more li'l footnotes to world history: Jazz, the Blues, and Rock 'n Roll...
But our finest virtue as Americans has nothing to do with some inherent glamour or goodness.
Not at all. Our prime virtue, perhaps our only real nobility, derives from endless energetic striving, from the grit and determination year-after-year to widen the canopy of our sheltering tent, reaching out more to those less blessed. And never giving up.
Another thing praise-worthy about the USA is that our system, nearly always, will reward those who dream big, and who work hard with diligence and integrity to realize those dreams.
OK, cynics and naysayers, consider this... Since when does any relationship come without painful rough edges? Sometimes our parents, our children, our spouses and friends, vex us until we feel like screaming out loud. Same with our nation.
So it's vital not to forget this fact: as we live in loyalty, as we're waiting/working for America to revive its will to protect and proliferate the ideals -- bold and beautiful ideals embodied by the Founders in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights -- there's no law anywhere requiring that we must go soft in the head, roll over and play dead while self-absorbed politicians, Robber Baron Olig-Orcs and elitists plunder our economy, our environment, our resources, the innocence of our youth, our private data and our cherished local traditions.
Hell No! Our Bill of Rights guarantees us all, within reasonable limits, the inalienable rights to bellow like a banshee and battle like a cornered badger to protect the health, the spirit, the families, the faith communities, the safety and security of the ones we love, in this land we love. For what father, what mother, would not fight to the last breath to crush anything trying to harm their own children?
So it goes with anyone loyal to their home country. Sometimes loyalty to one's nation -- precisely the same emotional vector as honest family dynamics -- calls for us to stand up, speak up and call BS on this great nation's leaders, if they have wandered as far from their family duties as the proverbial prodigal son. Or daughter.
Yes, we have a constitutional right to rail at incompetent people in power.
Rail then vote them out of power, even put them behind bars if need be. But we never ditch our family, our people, our country. We stand by those we love, and we NEVER turn our back on them. The man or woman in office -- any given term -- may be a moral maggot ostensibly beyond redemption, whose mere presence sucks the joy out of living, but the office he or she holds, and the centuries of democracy underpinning that office, are precious -- essential components to our survival as a free republic. Therefore we don't rush to trash those institutions; we protect and reform them continually -- while hosing them down, disinfecting them at the ballot box.
"Love is patient," Paul the Tent Maker advised us. "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." So we work for the new day, knowing it WILL be better; and that love for our nation will still burn vividly tomorrow -- after we shrug off the grit of vexation -- and we try again. We work before we blather; and we try again...
And that is the definition of patriotism that I feel for our native land -- nuestra patria, unsere Heimat. It is not about knee-jerk jingoism and pie-eyed flag-waving, the currency of slogan-thinkers and people who never read. At its core, real patriotism is all about the willingness to keep on keeping on, so the Home Fire never burns out -- for all our neighbors, even the strange ones, the silent ones we're afraid to meet -- well outside our jealously demarcated property lines and tightly-gripped possessions.
Being a bona fide patriot does not mean being some bleating sheep, a pushover nor a patsy for the cunning manipulators, the cold-souled users of men and means. Patriots keep a sharp eye on the near and the far horizons of their Homeland. Now I'm talking HOME-land here. The land of our soul's repose, our heart's respect, our mind's alliance. Not fatherland -- that's a Nazi notion. Not motherland -- that's a Soviet notion. Just Homeland, pure and simple.
And so protecting our Homeland does not mean fearing that everyone who disagrees with us, or speaks with an accent, is venomous or vile. What it does mean is remaining vigilant. Always poised to defend her from all enemies with vigor and intensity of purpose, even when some of our leaders are dimwits, political cowards, moral relativists or sold-out apologists for those One-Tenth-of-One-Percenters, the Olig-Orcs whose goal is to mine American souls -- and all of their personal data -- for profit.
So friends, once more with feeling... Happy 4th of July; Happy Birthday USA !
Good health and good cheer to all our fellow Americans, and our many beloved friends around the world who respect the ideals that the United States of America has struggled to uphold since 1776.
Remember, the operative word here is "struggled."
And the beat goes on ...
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