Friday, July 4, 2014

Five stupid things about the Fourth of July

I had to post this today. :) But note that he doesn't even mention the worst thing about the Fourth of July - the fireworks.

I'm certainly not opposed to family reunions, even though I don't attend any, myself. I think they're a good thing, in general. But to my mind, fireworks are simply a way for idiots to act even more idiotic than usual.

Sure, I loved them when I was 13. Who doesn't? But anything that appeals to morons that much can't be good. In my neighborhood, there are loud explosions in the middle of the night the whole week before July 4th - and for a month afterward. And for the rest of summer, I won't be able to mow the lawn without picking up rocket debris first (just thankful they didn't set anything on fire).

Still, my biggest problem with fireworks is that they've got nothing to do with patriotism. This is just how commercial interests have convinced you to spend your money foolishly, nothing more. The media don't just go along with this, but have a vested interested in getting you to spend money on useless crap, too (since they survive through advertising).

Anyway, Steve Shives is absolutely right about "crepe-paper patriotism." That's a lovely phrase, isn't it? When it comes to ostentatious displays of 'patriotism,' I'm with Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart."

Don't get me wrong, I am patriotic. I'm proud of my country, though I'm certainly not going to overlook what we've done wrong in the past or what's embarrassing about us even today (not all of us, of course, but many of my fellow citizens are embarrassing).

If you're a regular visitor, you already know how much I complain about racism. Obviously, we Americans should be embarrassed by our past acceptance of slavery and our not-so-distantly-past acceptance of segregation and racial inequality. And I'm hugely embarrassed by the Republican Party's successful use of racism in their notorious 'Southern strategy.'

I'm not a Republican, so I'm not embarrassed that they tried that, but I'm horribly embarrassed that it worked so well for them - and continues to work, to an embarrassingly large degree, even today. I'm not embarrassed that the Dixiecrats were originally Democrats, because the Democratic Party redeemed itself in an act of political courage. (Yeah, the Democrats! Courageous! Hard to believe these days, isn't it?)

But when people in other countries complain about American racism, I'm moved to object. I used to hear that regularly from people who didn't have a significant minority population of any kind in their own country. (When some of those countries started to get more immigration, they started to see more bigotry there, as well. That's human nature, I'm afraid.)

America is a diverse country. We've always celebrated that,... but not fully. That failure, that imperfection, was a national disgrace. But we're getting better now. And if you look at the revolution in how we deal with race in America, well, it was a revolution. And a remarkably peaceful one, too.

OK, it wasn't entirely peaceful. (What is?) But has any other country in the world made such a wrenching transformation with so little bloodshed? We have every reason to be proud of that, despite the fact that we've still got a ways to go.

Racism isn't dead, and neither is sexism or homophobia. Heck, even religious bigotry is still alive and well in America (certainly when it comes to us atheists - but with Muslims, as well). But just because we're not perfect, that's no reason not to be proud of how far we've come.

But that crepe-paper patriotism is not for me. When it comes to my country, I can look at the good and the bad and still be proud. I don't have to whitewash history. I don't have to ignore our flaws. If you do,... well, you must not think very much of America, then. I mean, if you need a fantasy America instead of the real thing, how proud can you really be?

Enjoy the fireworks, if you want. Enjoy your family reunions, too - or, at least, understand why they're important. Your family, like your religion, is usually just an accident of birth. And sometimes, it's easier to get along with relatives the farther apart you remain. :)

But they're family. Chances are you'd like them better if they weren't family. They wouldn't irritate you so much, then. If they were complete strangers, you wouldn't have any emotional baggage and you wouldn't have any expectations. After all, you're seldom embarrassed by complete strangers, because there's no connection between you.

Likewise, you're seldom embarrassed by the actions of other countries, either, right? That's because it has nothing to do with you.

Well, your family is not going to be perfect, and neither is your country. So what? You can be proud of the good without being blind to the bad. And in both cases, there's probably a lot more good that you're just overlooking. Really.


jeff725 said...

A few things I don't like about the Fourth:

That DISGUSTING hot dog eating contest they show on ESPN. Grotesque doesn't even begin to describe it for me. Even though I've lost 100 pounds (shit, I gained 2 this morning) I like to eat. I'm going to grill some big burgers this evening, but that hot dog eating contest is ridiculous.

Lee Greenwood's "Proud To Be An American" and ANY song by Toby Keith. They make me want to stab myself in the ears with a wooden spoon.

I'm with you on the fireworks. My dad was right; you're literally BURNING money.

Random thoughts:

Racism: Anthony of the "Opie and Anthony" radio show got fired for racial comments he made on his Twitter (predictably, HE'S the victim). Memo to Anthony: re-watch "The Godfather," especially the part where the Don says, "Never tell anyone outside the family what you're thinkin'..."

Just between you and me, I think he's upset because he got his ASS KICKED by a woman (regardless of race). :)

Right-wing sugar daddy Richard Mellon Scaife is dead. This is the part where I smile wryly and remind myself that it's bad form to talk ill of the dead.

I'm guessing you've been monitoring SCOTUS's Hobby Lobby ruling. I've already heard the term "corporate theocracy" being bandied about. Hmmm...well played, Christian Right.

Last thing: Am I patriotic? Honestly, I really don't know anymore.

Happy Fourth.

WCG said...

Eating contests have about as much connection to food as rape has with sex - they might use the same basic mechanism, but it's been perverted into something disgusting.

And yeah, I'm with you on the rest of those dislikes, too.

I've tried to ignore the Anthony Cumia stuff, since that's what talk radio is all about, isn't it? I like how PZ Myers put it: "The real issue is that somewhere in the corporate headquarters for Sirius XM, there is a nest of verminous, amoral, soulless corporate drones who saw a racist misogynist loudmouth as a pile of dollar signs. Fire Anthony Cumia, they’ll still be there. Fire Cumia, his audience of sympathetic racist misogynist cowards will still be there."

I'm glad he was fired, of course, but Cumia isn't worth even that much of my attention.

Richard Mellon Scaife? He seems almost quaint now, doesn't he? He wasn't even especially rich, by today's standards, nor as destructive to our democracy as people like the Koch brothers.

Note that, like most of these people, he inherited his wealth. What's that saying about being born on third base and thinking you hit a home run?

They're politically powerful because of that inherited wealth, and they buy politicians not just to increase that wealth, but to support this whole system of inherited aristocracy.

Born poor, they would have been nothing. You don't have to be smart to inherit money, but those people generally they think that they're special - and that they deserved it - somehow.

Finally, I've been meaning to blog about the Hobby Lobby decision, but it's hard to get the ambition. Yeah, another terrible 5 to 4 decision, chipping away at the separation between church and state in America. As expected.

And yeah, five right-wing Republican extremists, all Catholic, deciding an issue about birth control, which just happens to be what their church really, really wanted. (For decades, the Catholic Church has lost lawsuit after lawsuit in America, with the courts consistently finding that churches still have to obey the law. Apparently, corporations don't, though - not any more.)

Is there anyone who thought those Republican activists wouldn't decide in favor of Hobby Lobby? I did like Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent, though. Oh, and Hobby Lobby's reaction.