Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Active Patriotism

In churches, it is often popular to see the slogan of "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or to remind the world that it is not "Happy Holidays" but rather "Merry Christmas." However, with tomorrow being the Fourth of July, it is important that the United States has a "re-taking" of Fourth of July. Tomorrow, inevitably shall be filled with feasting, festivities and fireworks. There is nothing inherently wrong with such celebrations. In fact, John Adams famously wrote that on anniversaries of the signing of the Declaration "...It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bell, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

However, when the celebrations become an end in and of themselves, it is important to refocus and remind ourselves that the founding of this country is exactly what makes America great; that a band of rebels were willing to risk the comforts of complacency to pioneer a new path forward for the land that they loved. It is important to remember that on that muggy day in 18th-century Pennsylvania, the men we see now as our nation's most refined wise men, were committing the highest act of treason by breaking from the mighty British Empire to forge a new nation that would not be based on class, or not on where one was born but on the principle that all men are created equal. With the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Founders signed their death warrant. But they did not shirk from this danger; they reveled in it for they believed in a country not yet borne but in the making.

Thus is the story of all true patriots; to forge that country not yet in existence but borne in one's mind. It is the story of Abolitionists who believed that no men were free until all were free. It is the story of Immigrants who came to these shores and docked at Ellis Island who took the perilous journey, where they would face hard labor and sweat but in their hearts knew there was a chance at prosperity. It is the tale of women who marched and embarked on hunger strikes for their vote, working to make the republic work for them. It is the tale of Rabbis and Preachers embarking on Civil Disobedience, some risking assassination.

Too often, Patriotism can become a Saturnine action, where the extent of our patriotism is hanging a flag upon our doors, firing up our grills and some cherry bombs. Far too often, the word is invoked to silence any criticism of the government. When one is protesting at a politician's event, they are often met with chants of "USA USA," as if simply complying with a politicians' words is somehow more patriotic than the voice of dissent. Yet, this cannot be the extent of our patriotism. True patriotism must be an active thing. True Patriotism must not be blind adherence to government or to national sentiment or to consensus. True patriotism must contain that same moral outrage at wrongdoing and overwhelming joy in times where liberty and justice prevail.

Consequently, there must be risks taken by the populace to preserve this nation. In turn, there will be debate. Oftentimes, the Founders and the Framers are beatified as wise men in robes who received the Constitution from the Celestial powers; this could not be further from the truth. The truth is that they were fallible men who actively debated and argued with their words and pens to discuss the future of their nascent experiment. While some may find that version disheartening, in truth it should be all the more awe-inspiring; it proves that this country was made by imperfect men willing to defy the procrustean tradition and instead opting for a better nation for posterity.

So too, must this generation be willing to embark on the next challenges. This is not a call for constant agreement. On the contrary, this is time for active, debate, that entrenches itself in the discussions of progress. Yet it must also be predicated on the notion that what unites both sides is an abiding desire to move the nation forward. This is a time for constant patriotism. America will not die when an outside force strikes; America will die when the populace rests on the inheritance of its ancestors.

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