The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the founding of our country and what makes the US so great. We celebrate our achievements, our innovations, our freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as our culture and values. Today’s the day we break out the grill and have a good old American barbecue, and watch fireworks and see parades. The revelry brings us together as Americans celebrating what makes us stand out. With this revelry unfortunately, can come an uglier side to things. Somehow, humans can turn about anything into something very ugly in any situation, and unfortunately, this is no different:
About every day of the year, patriotism is expressed by many over being in America. Patriotism in itself isn’t inherently bad, basically, it’s having pride in one’s country and showing solidarity with fellow citizens. However, there is a small vocal minority that seeks to impose their own personal interpretation on how to be patriotic on anyone who disagrees through ad-hominem attacks and guilt tripping. Basically if one doesn’t subscribe to their views on how to praise this country, you’re a “traitor”, in essence! Rhetoric on “Our country is the best country in the world!” and “Anyone who disagrees is slighting the US military and is ungrateful for our soldiers” or “You support/sympathize with enemy X”, is often thrown around. Now an argument of theirs is that we shouldn’t take our rights and privileges this country has given us for granted, which is definitely true, but squashing any legitimate criticism only ironically deprives others of their freedom of opinions. Many essentially argue that because America gives us the right to dissent, we shouldn’t be allowed to! Often, this attitude fosters intolerance and hatred toward anyone perceived to be the “other”, you’re in or you’re out basically.
Also, the notion of American Exceptionalism, that is we’re the best nation EVER is extremely arrogant. What makes people think that other countries are somehow inferior technologically, socially, culturally? What about other 1st world countries like England, or Germany, or France? Don’t they have rich histories, technological innovations, strong militaries, exceptional people and rich cultures and heritages too? What makes us think we’re so above them? Sure, we’re a huge world power, but what about China and Russia? Sure, we are founded on principles of freedom and justice, but many countries embraced those enlightenment-era ideals the founding fathers got. What about the French Revolution?, for an example. Hundreds of technologies we brag about having were invented in other countries! These attitudes of entitlement and superiority are prime examples of how pride turns to arrogance.
Now, not all patriotism is bad, indeed, the examples listed above are more like strong nationalism. It’s perfectly okay to have pride in our heritage and culture and traditions. Celebrating the Fourth of July is as harmless as say, Cinco de Mayo. Grilling burgers (which I’ll note came from Germany) and having an American style barbecue is perfectly fine. Being nostalgic for one’s homeland is great. Embracing values such as “freedom and justice for all” is what everyone should do. Taking pride in the skill of our military, our scientists, our inventors and innovators and acknowledging their contributions to our country is commendable. America does have a rich and beautiful heritage made by many people. It’s okay to take pride in what makes us unique and stand out in the world. However, when that pride takes the shape of “We’re the greatest country EVER”, “Tow the party line or else!”, “Our sacrifices and struggles matter more than yours!”, or “You’re a traitor if you disagree!” among countless others, it crosses the line into arrogance and intolerance. It takes a great deal of humility to say “We are only one of many great nations”, “It’s okay if you disagree”, “The experiences of other country’s citizens matter too and we’re all human beings” and “Speak up for what’s right even if it means going against your country” etc… Sure, many people do need reminding not to take what’s great about America for granted, but many others need a strong reminder to stay humble too. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between healthy pride in one’s country, and toxic arrogance.
So this Fourth of July, celebrate everything that makes us great, but also remind yourself to take a step back if you will, and acknowledge our failings too. No country is perfect, but we as a nation can strive to better our country and our society through our attitudes and actions. On this day, “do your bit” by simply accepting someone different than you, stand up for someone, speak out if something’s wrong. That’s what will make America great enough to truly celebrate. On this exciting day, here’s a reminder not to let pride turn into arrogance.