This year, Trump took credit for making Juneteenth a well-known thing. Maybe he did, in a very weird, roundabout way, at least among his own base. He has a tendency to talk about new things he learns as if it’s the first time anybody has ever heard of them and he gets to Trump-splain them to us. This is the same guy who, along with his followers, considered it unpatriotic for Colin Kapernick to take a knee rather than pledge allegiance to the US flag. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, the NFL has even reversed course on its racist stance that players should not “take a knee.” There’s a certain brand of patriotism in the US that relies on a racist foundation to legitimize it.
When I was a missionary in the Canary Islands, I was assigned to the small, beautiful island of La Palma. It is still one of my favorite places on the planet. Unlike most of the other islands whose economies relied on tourism, La Palma was (at the time) very insular, very resistant to outsiders, and very Catholic. We frequently taught new investigators who had recently moved there, only to be told at our second appointment that their neighbors had told them that joining a different religion would lead to them being ostracized. Even the nuns scowled at us when we walked past them! The local branch of 32 members had (all but a handful of them) reneged and returned to Catholicism. Once, when we were walking through a new neighborhood, young kids threw oranges at us shouting that we should be Catholic. One of them pointed at the Catholic Church and yelled, “Tu iglesia!” at me (literally meaning “Your Church,” but also using the familiar form which was bad manners as I was an adult, not that throwing fruit at us was “good” manners). It was an interesting three months.
I sometimes think about that young boy’s face, twisted in fury, pointing at his neighborhood Church, shouting at me that the Catholic Church was my Church. I had nothing against the Catholic Church. It was a good influence in the lives of many. I respected it, I saw its value, but it wasn’t my Church. Its stories weren’t my stories. As missionaries, my companion and I would sometimes go to the local Catholic Church and listen to the homily. The words were uplifting, even if they were so imperfectly applied in the local community, as with any spiritual teaching. Its high church narrative was foreign, ancient and strange to me; its churches, while beautiful, were dark rooms filled with dust and incense. But it wasn’t our Church. Our own branch held meetings in our apartment. We four missionaries usually hosted Church for just one or two stalwart members. It felt pretty brazen to invite people to attend Church when there was really no community of members, and we knew there would be unremitting hostility toward them for joining us. That was our Church.
Since the Black Lives Matter protests, I keep thinking of the brand of patriotism so many Americans have. They are like the angry boy shouting at us, pointing at his Church and yelling, “Tu iglesia!” at me. A patriotism that asserts its dominance on others feels both insecure and threatening if you begin to question the narrative it’s founded on.
What is Independence Day to a black person? It’s not the day black people became independent. What is the American dream to someone descended from enslaved people, someone who couldn’t buy a house in a red-lined suburb, someone unfairly jailed or whose wrongful felony conviction has robbed him of the right to vote (or whose spouse and children were left to fend for themselves), someone stuck in poverty or without healthcare (or told by healthcare workers that they didn’t really feel pain), or someone who grew up seeing that the American dream only really worked for white people? These words still resonate for many black Americans:
Abolitionist movement leader Frederick Douglass gave a scathing speech the day after Independence Day in 1852, saying: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”
Douglass reminded listeners that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, many blacks were still slaves. Even the British were more likely to offer freedom to blacks than the colonists.
What’s troubling about Juneteenth is the indifference of white people that it reveals. It’s a commemoration of the day that enslaved black people in Texas were finally told they were now freed–TWO AND A HALF YEARS after the emancipation proclamation. Texas doesn’t like to admit defeat, and from my experience living in rural Texas in the 70s, they still think the Civil War is on. I found it troubling that the two black students in my class always sat in the back and didn’t talk to any of the other kids. When I asked a classmate about that, she whispered to me that they were “bused in” so they didn’t really belong there anyway. We were in 3rd grade. Little ears hear what big mouths tell them at home.
Another troubling thing about the emancipation is that it freed formerly enslaved people in word, but not necessarily in deed. Many former white slave-owners couldn’t bear to be equal to their former slaves. They did everything possible to maintain supremacy over these newly-made citizens, forcing them to live in segregated poverty, refusing them basic dignity, incarcerating them on trumped up charges, executing them without consequences. When did freedom come? Even in the northern states, these attitudes and outcomes often prevailed, although sometimes with less animus.
There’s been a lot in the news lately about Confederate statues and renaming military bases. Some conservatives have objected to the erasure of “history” if we remove statues. Have we really been telling history or just a narrative in which white people are good, adventurous, and industrious, while glossing over or eliding entirely the black and brown humans we exploited and killed in the process? Are we really preserving a “history” or just a narrative designed to ennoble white people? It’s painful to admit the wrongs of the past that have given us an advantage over others.
I remember attending Church as a BYU student with my roommate who was British. It was near the 4th of July, and one of the “hymns” was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” As the music began, she sucked in her breath in surprise and horror. “They’ve taken our beloved anthem God Save the Queen and made it about America!” This felt like a sacrilege to her. God Save the Queen was patriotic, part of her heritage. Americans have always been good at rewriting and inventing our history to suit our needs. She wouldn’t sing it.
A recent article in Vox talked about why the American Revolution was a mistake or had worse outcomes than we would have had without it:
- Slavery was abolished in the British empire in 1834, over thirty years earlier than it was in the US. Even Colonial India banned it in 1843, nine years later. Somehow, the US was more colonial than the country that colonized us!
- The British treated indigenous people better than the Americans did. Exhibit A is Canada’s treatment of native Americans that is much less genocidal with more demonstrated historical respect for border treaties.
- Parliamentary democracies, like they have in the UK, are less prone to dictatorships and gridlock than our US system of checks and balances between executive and legislative branches. Parliamentary democracies are more efficient at making policy decisions and getting things done, and their outcomes are more egalitarian.
Watching Hamilton, along with most of the country, now vs. when it first came out, has been an eye-opening experience. It first hit Broadway during the Obama presidency when the country was congratulating itself on being “post-racial,” a happy little white lie we told ourselves. Seeing people of color cast as founding fathers pointed to the universality of the American experiment. It showed how these concepts of freedom and human rights know no race, that all people are ennobled by ennobling ideals. We thought to ourselves “We don’t see color.”
Watching it now, after the Black Lives Matter protests, after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and so many others, after the race-baiting language our current president employs very openly and regularly and hearing many so-called Christians mimicking that same language, Hamilton felt quite different. I had always been bothered by the Bechdel failure of Hamilton, but suddenly, it was apparent that the musical wasn’t really holding Jefferson accountable for his actions, just winking at the audience about Sally Hemmings in a way that was too quick to interpret. Was it acknowledging that he was a rapist of enslaved women? That he bartered with enslaved women to sell their children? That he bore personal responsibility for perpetuating slavery beyond our nation’s independence by barring black people from those included in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? I felt that the musical 1776 did more to directly address slavery than Hamilton did, but that’s probably because John Adams (the star of 1776) was an abolitionist and Hamilton was not. Was the musical really holding Hamilton accountable for taking advantage of an abused, impoverished woman, certainly sexually coercing her, but potentially raping her, or was it content to slut-shame her as a seductress with an opportunist husband?
Lastly, the lack of black characters who were enslaved during the foundation of our country was suddenly visible. Unlike in our supposed post-racial view during the Obama administration in which it was so progressive for people of color to play white people, it was clear that there were black people present during these events. They were just invisible. Sally Hemmings only merits one quip, putting her in the role of secretary. When the cast sings “No one else was in the room where it happened,” that overlooks that there were indeed slaves, people of color, in the room where it happened. They just didn’t matter. They were nobody. Invisible. Not a part of “we the people.”
The music is still incredible. The musical is innovative. I’m not cancelling it. I will watch it again, probably multiple times. But I can suddenly see some things I didn’t see just a few years ago.
When July 4th rolled around this year, we were busy doing some improvements in our yard all weekend, so despite being in more-or-less lockdown, I didn’t see much of my kids. Later in the day, my son and I wished each other “Happy White People’s Independence Day,” acknowledging who was made free on July 4th and who was not. We can’t point at black people who object to the flag and say “That’s YOUR symbol” or “this is YOUR country” unless it is. Until then, we are like the ignorant young boy in La Palma shouting at me that the Catholic Church was my church. It never was.
- How do we disentangle patriotism from racism? Should we celebrate Independence Day without acknowledging that it only applied to white, male land-owners?
- Have your views on racism changed since the Obama presidency? In what ways?
- Do you think we’d have been a better nation without the American Revolution?
- Should we celebrate Juneteenth nationally to commemorate black freedom?
- Are there other holidays we should celebrate to remember that not everyone became “free” in 1776? What about Women’s Suffrage?
Find out more about anti-racism at this excellent site.
This is awesome.
“Should we celebrate Independence Day without acknowledging that it only applied to white, male land-owners?
Yes, we should. Every American benefits from the actions that surround our July 4th celebrations — every American of whatever color, whatever sex, whatever creed, whatever _____. American experiences have influenced notions of freedom, democracy, and so forth all over the world. This doesn’t mean we’re perfect yet, but certainly the whole world is better because of the United States. In my opinion, it is untruthful to say that Independence Day only affected white male landowners.
Independence Day in 1776 was the start of something great, and it is worthy of celebration by all Americans. Four score and some years later, there was a civil war to end slavery — that is to our nation’s credit, not our shame. Tens and hundreds of thousands of soldiers (primarily white men) died to end slavery and in support of our Independence Day.
I’m not ready to start hating our country.
As far as other national holidays, I am on favor of as many paid holidays as I can get.
Beautifully and truly stated! I’m so glad you did this entry, hawkgrrrl.
The only exception I’d take is that the Canadian relation to First Nations people is far less unblemished than we, as Americans, tend to assume. They also removed First Nations kids from ancestral lands and placed them in residential schools where they attempted to make “Canadians” out of them. And there are records of abuses and exploitation that mirror things that happened south of the border.
That said, I have often wondered if the American Revolution was necessary. Our Canadian neighbors accomplished the same independence within the Commonwealth and now, as a result, have entrée to any part of the world with a Commonwealth heritage. This means a more global awareness and expanded economic possibilities. It’s very common for young Canadians to travel and work around the world bring those experiences back to Canada.
I also wonder if we would have their more communal approach to problem solving if we hadn’t started the American experience with militarism and extolled individuality over community. The comparison of these attributes is painfully obvious at the moment when we compare Canadian handling of the Corona virus with our own. They have been much more successful in containing infection, in part, because of their national health system and ready access to both treatment and tracking but also because alliance to their communities has resulted in more responsible strategies on the part of individual Canadians.
I know this will be a highly unpopular opinion but I think it needs to be said. Our silly “American exceptionalism” has prevented us from looking honestly at the American experience for people of color and average Middle Class Americans and asking if our priorities are properly aligned and prosecuted.
Again, thanks for the honesty and bravery to write this entry, hawkgrrrl. I’m sure I’m way off in the fringes of this particular community but I’m also sure you’re right.
“Americans have always been good at rewriting and inventing our history to suit our needs.”
This isn’t an American thing. This is what humans do. Period.
The truly great Mormon crime is that it has pushed beyond this normal human impulse by inventing not only its own history, but the history of another group of people (Native Americans) to suit its own needs. Any good Mormonism does should be considered negated by this alone.
John, while it’s true that all humans rewrite history to suit themselves, and specifically we say that the victors get to write history (if you lose, you don’t get the mic), there is something incredible about the way the USA has taken over the world’s storytelling through Hollywood. US culture has been broadcast around the world in a very unique way. More people living in other countries know our stories than we know theirs. They even know more about our founding story than we know about theirs. That’s not just because our founding story was uniquely compelling; it’s particularly the case because through Hollywood, we are the undisputed top exporters of the stories people watch and know.
So for the average white American, patriotism is about the Fourth of July, the flag, singing the national anthem at sporting events, having a family member or two who served in the military, and maybe voting. But for any other American, I can see that it is more complicated, whether they are African Americans (as discussed in the post), Hispanic or Latin American (you stole California!), Japanese American (incarceration of Japanese American citizens during WW2), Chinese Americans (a host of anti-Chinese legislation and labor exploitation), and so forth.
And for Mormons patriotism was very complicated in the 19th century, given conflict with the states, conflict with the federal government, threats to disenfranchise Mormon voters, threats to seize Mormon temples, and the oath of vengeance taken in Mormon temples. Ironically, Mormons considered themselves very patriotic in theory (to the “true” version of America and the Constitution) yet unwilling to conform to the law of the land and actively working to subvert the work of government officials, so Mormons were unpatriotic in practice. Yet somehow with statehood in 1896, that quickly changed and by the mid-20th century Mormon were super patriots in practice as well as in theory. Well, at least white Mormons. For any other Mormon, there are the complications noted earlier, plus the problem of Mormon racism that made many of them feel less than equal within the Church (a thoroughly American church, even today) as well.
Many other nations do not have founding stories. When did France become France? When did England become England? There were German peoples long before there was a Germany.
The tides of history did not create the United States. A group of people created it very deliberately at a certain time and place. So yes, I do think our founding story is both unique and compelling.
Hollywood is responsible for a lot, but I think it is a stretch to say Hollywood is responsible for the spread of the American narrative.
John: For France, I would suggest the French Revolution is a critical part of the foundation of modern France, embracing many of the same ideals we hold and a few we weren’t bold enough to include (women and race). As for England, the reformation is an incredibly huge part of their history, and it absolutely is taught that way in their schools. These are foundational stories on par with the foundation of the US. As to Germany, I tend to agree that there isn’t a single narrative that holds up in the same way, largely due to shifting borders in the recent past (e.g. Prussia) and the problems of Hitler and then the Cold War. I’m not saying our history isn’t unique and compelling. It is! But so are the narratives of many other nations, and fewer Americans know those stories than know ours. Perhaps our disagreement is just about the extent that Hollywood has been effective at spreading our narrative rather than whether it has been effective.
I don’t mind the narrative that patriotism is complicated, especially for African Americans, etc.
I do mind the premise that patriotism / the Flag / the National Anthem is racist.
I’m fine if YOU (not Hawkgrrl just the generic “you”) don’t like these things.
I hope you’re fine that I do.
I didn’t celebrate the 4th of July because all holidays matter.
How to disentangle patriotism from racism? The idea of American is that all can become an American regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, religion, and language. If someone is claiming to be a patriot and then in the same breath saying crypto-white supremacist statements, they are no patriot. The founders of the US had high ideals. We should celebrate those ideals. On that note, I don’t think it is all that significant that the US became independent from Britain. In fact, it probably would have become independent, or semi-independent from Britain, at some point in the 1800s if it hadn’t had the Revolutionary War. The US is the only country that I know of where slaves became free because of a long drawn-out conflict with a high death toll. It is unfortunate that it happened that way. But I support what Lincoln did.
Let me share 3 events that show racism goes in both directions:
The year our local High School was integrated, there was a 2-day race riot. Started by those racist white students, right? WRONG. It was planned and carried out by the black students. How do I know? My older brother was on the football team and was warned by his black teammates, bless them.
Fast-forward to my years in high school. The Show Choir Director was fired for not selecting enough black singers from auditions (3 out of 16). At the same time, the varsity basketball team had 1 white player out of 15. When I made the comparison to the (white) principal, It was ignored. Blacks made up 30% of the student body and elected favorites of the Senior class (most popular, etc.) had to have a representative from both black and white, including homecoming king/queen.
Fast forward to my nieces/nephews in high school. Blacks are 70% of the student body. Both races are no longer represented in elections.
Hypocrisy? Double standard? Or do you just call it “Payback Time”?
I think that’s very funny! I’m sure the person who downvoted you missed the irony.
It is interesting to see other groups struggle: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-22/sierra-club-calls-out-the-racism-of-john-muir
This is a Pandora’s Box of messy cultural attitudes, that cries out for comment. But I am too long-winded to begin with, so I will simply note:
What appeals to me most about the United States of America is that it is, first and foremost, an IDEA. However imperfectly realized, that idea is best conveyed by Emma Lazarus, herself an immigrant, and the words of her poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty: give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
That is why I left conservatism (although, really, as it morphed under Trump into an ethnic-racial chauvinism, conservatism left me). I love the idea that someone born in Fujian or Germany or Nicaragua is as American as I am, once they become a citizen. The dream of my immigrant ancestors, who came to America unable to read or write, and “died that their children might inherit the promise” (O.E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth), is still being pursued by people today.
It is ironic, but all too human, that as a nation based on ideas, we are still struggling to ensure that all our people are able to exercise their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, granted to us by God. Particularly descendants of enslaved people and Native Americans). The process is certainly messy, because people are messy, but it goes on and we keep trying.
Just as it is offensive and wrong to try to airbrush our past into a perfect ideal, whether as a nation or a Church or as a person, it is also offensive to negate the good that has been done. God expects me, our Church, and our Country to repent of the bad things we do. He also applauds the good that we do. I am much more confident accepting the judgment of God, with whatever rewards and punishments He assigns me, rather than assertions that any good that the Mormon Church (or whatever Institution or country) does should be negated by (insert reason; there is an endless supply, should you so desire).
I hope that I am a patriot; not a blind one unaware of issues, but one without illusions.
I’m occasionally hearing this idea that bringing up the sins of the US is akin to “hating” the US. This isn’t an either/or. We can believe in the ideals the US brought forward, yet decry the hypocrisy in how those ideals were applied. We can even point out blind spots in the US’s ideals and still be patriotic. The American Dream is supposed to be participatory, which means we get involved personally to make improvements and to make it our own. It’s hard to imagine improvements that don’t involve some type of critical appraisal as the impetus. There are many whose people were disenfranchised in American history, but who nonetheless adopt the ideals as beneficial. People are not monolithic. I agree with Taiwan Missionary that the “yearning to be free” is at the core of what this country is supposed to be.
John W: “If someone is claiming to be a patriot and then in the same breath saying crypto-white supremacist statements, they are no patriot.” Personally, I agree, although let’s be honest–some people who did that were also founders. There’s a long history of preferential treatment in the US, partly because people wanted their interests to come first and be protected at minimum for them to participate, even if those interests hurt others in the process (e.g. Southern land-holders with slaves and their Northern friends who bought and sold their goods). Even many abolitionists were also white supremacists. Racism runs deep in human history. There’s a certain flavor of patriotism that prizes adoration of ideals over recognition of injustice and commitment to do better and be more inclusive. When I see it, I can see what’s really behind it; prioritizing self over others and a lack of recognition of how intertwined we all are.
“I don’t think it is all that significant that the US became independent from Britain.” It’s a thought experiment that could go either way, I think: 1) we can see what Canada did without a rebellion against Mother England, and 2) as quickly as 1812, we were allied with the Brits again. Our spat was easily set aside for self-interest.
I am surprised no one has mentioned manifest destiny as being a tie between patriotism and racism. The belief that America’s white population was God’s chosen race and it was God’s plan that we spread our great ideas of government and capitalism across the American continent and become a great nation and world leader really had white supremacy at its base.
France was France before 1789. England was England before the Reformation. These are important historical moments for these nations, but they dont mark the founding of these nations.
It is not as simple as that. France was not France before 1789. The history of France from the 5th century to 18th century is one of attempts of the monarchy to extend its authority. For the majority of the history of France, what we call France was just a rump area ranging between Paris and Orleans known commonly as the Ile de France, and even then the kings had to seek permission from their overmighty nobles to move through those lands. The duchies of Normandy, Burgundy, and Aquitaine though nominally under the authority of the French kings were in reality independent states that acted independent of the king. The Norman Invasion of 1066 is an example of the Norman Duke William defying the express order of Philippe I not to invade England . Not to mention the independent kingdoms like Navarre which were not incorporated into the French state until quite late. Also major areas in the southwest were part of the English domains for centuries. It is not until the Revolution that the revolutionaries begin to develop a concept of Frenchness. Prior to that the idea would have been incomprehensible to the majority of the French.
As for the founding myths, the French had plenty of them long before the Revolution. Medieval chroniclers like the authors of the Grand Chroniques de France argued that the French descended from Trojans escaping the fall of Troy. In face, just about every European power claimed descent from Trojans (i.e. Britain was so named after the Trojan Brutus settled on the island). They also claimed indirectly claimed genealogical connections to Old Testament kings to reinforce the idea that the French monarchy was chosen by God to rule (sound familiar?). There is a famous diptych in the Museum of Medieval Civilization in Paris that depicts Louis XII as a new King David. If that wasn’t enough, they could look back to mythic and semi divine Pharamond who supposedly founded the Merovingian dynasty that would begin to carve out of the former Roman province the geography that would eventually become France.
In England, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (completed in 1136), provided a fanciful and completely fictional account of the supposed kings of Britain after the last Romans left the island. This served to create a sense of British (though not at the time English) identity and remained popular right into the 16th century when Shakespeare used it as the primary source for King Lear. HoKoB also provided that other enduring artifact of British mythology, King Arthur who was as much a literary invention as Harry Potter.
We have to remember until recently, the geographic space of Europe was the private property of overmighty families, worked by the population which makes it impossible to develop a sense of nation. England’s parliament isn’t recognizable until the Restoration of 1660 and the subsequent Glorious Revolution of 1688. And France didn’t develop a national parliamentary institution until 1791,
In the end, Benedict Anderson had it right when he argued that all countries/nations are imagined communities.
Jason’s comment, that it is not as simple as that, was directed toward the development of the French nation, and was quite informative, but it is also true for almost all things in life.
Beware of simplistic narratives, whether American, British, Chinese, Russian, Mormon, Evangelical, Muslim, secular, progressive, conservative, or of any kind. Historical narratives are usually written by the victors , and are suspect, but America’s dominant narrative about the Civil War was written by the losers, and we still struggling to recover from the hangover of The Glorious Cause. Simplistic narratives are very comforting, but are based on a very basic human need to imagine oneself or one’s group as superior, and others as inferior.
I certainly don’t have the answer for this problem. Progressives like to think they have the answers, but Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a liberal as being one who wishes to replacing existing evils with new ones, is a sensible warning. As for conservatives who want to return to the good old days, I love Ella Fitzgerald’s famous crack, what good old days? I don’t remember any good old days.
For this post, I prefer reasoned, clear-eyed patriotism. For Mormonism, I prefer realistic. informed belief. For my own personal life, I hope that I do good, and am happy if I don’t act like a jerk.
The one simplistic narrative that I gratefully accept is the version of Christianity found in Mark 12:28-34; 1st Corinthians 13, entire chapter; and Joseph Smith’s statement about the basics of our belief. (I am sorry; I am typing this on my smart phone, and can’t look it up, without losing this draft. But it is the statement he made that Christ died for our sins, and rose on the 3rd day, and everything else in our religion is but an appendage to that.)
A patriotism that’s not deeply self-critical is merely narcissism. Genuine love for a country must always include—above all—an urgent desire to understand its flaws so that we can make our country better.
If a citizen’s love for a country must always be self-critical, where he or she urgently desires to understand (continually harp on) all of his or her country’s flaws so as to make the country “better,” would you extend that approach to a person’s love for spouse, or a parent’s love for child? We love them, and want them to be better, too.
Or, might it sometimes be better, when planning for the Independence Day holiday we’re talking about in this thread, to say you’re great, I love you for what you are, I’ll be silent with criticisms, let’s go to the Fourth of July picnic and fireworks and have a great time in remembrance and celebration?
Countries are political entities, not people or marriages or families. Healthy families do not function like political entities. Political entities fail if they try to function like families.
So if countries are not like families, let’s think about what they really are. Politics is a human method for taming the violence in our conflicting interests. It’s a way of getting along with each other in spite of ourselves. Because the threat of violence is always present in politics, politics is always ugly. On the other hand, because politics comes with the possibility of taming violence, there is also beauty in politics. This ugliness and this beauty always coexist in politics.
One of the central problems with patriotism, as it is commonly misunderstood, is the idea that we can celebrate the beauty of politics without constantly keeping its ugliness in view. The only way to tame violence is always to remember the ways that we are failing to tame violence. When we will ourselves not to see the ugliness, the ugliness only gets worse.
The awesome rhetorical power of the American Revolution and the French Revolution comes from their invention of a hope that politics can help us not only keep the violence at bay, but also in some sense transcend the violence. Justice and equality in politics is an amazing, inspiring possibility, but it’s very, very hard to do. It doesn’t happen just because we think it possible.
There is much to celebrate in the United States and what the country means as an idea. But remember that what we are celebrating is a political creation. If by “celebrating” this political creation we mean to ignore, even for a moment, all the ugliness that is an ineradicable part of politics, then we only hasten our own ruin.
I have a fairly decent understanding of the history of France. I teach art history in college. My point is that France did not come into existence at a single point in time. This is very different from the history of the USA, which was British until it was not British anymore.
Well, I did learn in my history classes about King Alfred of the kingdom of Wessex unifying the seven Kingdoms – Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia of the Angles; Wessex, Sussex and Essex of the Saxons; and Kent of the Jutes, to create what became known as England. All of these groups were of course invaders or immigrants when they arrived. Actually, for some reason I covered that bit of history several times over – when the Romans left until the Norman invasion of 1066, whilst in school. Not sure why it turned out that way. I even got top marks for my essay on what we do and don’t actually know about Arthur – blame Geoffrey of Monmouth for the romantic tales… it was a long time ago though so the details are by now quite foggy. Sadly, I didn’t keep the essay. But I did get to visit the site at South Cadbury one family holiday, where a stronghold of the Romano-British military commander may have been. I had had to study the details of an excavation that was carried out, details of that now also lost to the fog of memory.
So a longwinded way of saying yes I did learn the founding stories of England…
Disentangling patriotism and racism begins by acknowledging that the Founders were deeply flawed, complicated individuals, who’s historical legacy can be both benevolent AND abhorrent, and modern day Americans can continue to grapple with those questions. “Hamilton” does a good job illustrating this, especially because it challenges the heroic, white-washed (pun intended) version of American history many of us grew up with. And we can question those narratives and still be honorable patriots, because we love our country and believe it is capable of being better.
As we approach Pioneer Day, this becomes even more relevant. Racism is woven through all eras of Church history and continues to affect the institution today, but most Church members are content to pretend it never happened. In addition to his known racism, Brigham Young presided over one of the largest systems of state-sponsored misogyny in American history. Centuries later, it still haunts us because we haven’t dealt with it honestly.
Were it not for the American Revolution, I probably wouldn’t exist. And that would be bad. (Loursat: Is that narcissistic?)
I understand the sentiments being expressed in this thread, but we are talking about holidays in this thread. I generally like to celebrate holidays and remember the good. If I were to host an Independence Day holiday celebration, or a Pioneer Day celebration, and I invited all my neighbors including posters here, I hope all my guests would leave their negativity (or honesty, as they might style it) behind for the duration of the festivities.
A couple of comments on the comments.
Americans believe everyone else wants to be American. About 16% of Americans were born overseas, 29% of Australians are born overseas, and 80,000 a year are from America, which is more than the number of those claiming to be LDS. Our Australia day is marked by new citizend being naturalised.
There is discussion in Australia about whether we should come back after the virus as a better country, with better priorities, or the same. For example should we be financially more equitable. We have for years had a closing the gap between the conditions of aboriginal community v others. Many of our first nation people see Australia day as invasion day, and there are discussions about how to fix that. Are you having that discussion?
Americas standing in the world has been damaged over the last few years. We have just increased our defence spending, because of concern about China, and loss of trust in America, who used to be seen as a reliable ally. And in so many other ways.
There was discussion about what we call cultural imperialism, that there is much more content produced in America on our TV, and film, than there is on yours from the rest of the world. A simple question, who won ww2? Look at the number of casualties, to see who did the heavy lifting V who told the story? There is usually an article about US on our nightly news, do you have articles about the rest of the world on yours?
I thought this was very powerfull. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/opinion/tammy-duckworth-tucker-carlson.html
For those saying that the Revolutionary War was absolutely necessary and worthy of great celebration every July 4th. Consider the fact that citizens of the UK today enjoy pretty much the same freedoms and rights that citizens of the US do, except for gun ownership rights and a few other small exceptions that I’m sure we could find. Constitutional monarchy has proven to be a lasting and freedom-providing form of government. Had the US never broken off from the UK I can’t imagine that we would be less free than we are today.
John W: Black people in the UK enjoy at least as much liberty as (and likely more liberty than) Black people in the US. But Juneteenth is still worth celebrating. Constitutional liberty is worth celebrating wherever and whenever it is found. It doesn’t have to be a closed tent.
“It doesn’t have to be a closed tent.”
Unclear what you mean here. My point is that the values of the Enlightenment were already having a huge effect on European politics before the American Revolutionary War and arguably would have come across the Atlantic to the American Colonies whether or not there was a war. The war (sparked in large part by taxes, when the American colonists were paying less in taxes than people in England) was probably unnecessary. In fact, American colonists before the war enjoyed a good amount of freedom as it was. Just a decade before 1776, they were singing the praises of the British crown for their victory in the Seven Years’ War against France. I celebrate the values and ideals of the Enlightenment on the 4th of July, not a probably unnecessary war to achieve those values in politics. They were ideals that the US is still striving towards, but have made great progress on. When the US first achieved independence, only 6% of its population could vote. Freedom has expanded greatly, but it needs to still expand more.
It’s a bit troubling that currently when I see a house with a flag and patriotic items prominently displayed, I immediately assume that person is a Trump supporter. That’s not good. There’s a performative nature to this type of patriotism that I was never really into, but being patriotic can’t become solely a sign of conservatism. That strikes me as problematic for the left and the country as a whole.
A few thoughts here.
I think it is challenging to say what the course of history would be like in the absence of the American Revolution. I think a close reading of what many of the leading figures like Washington and Adams had originally wanted was to be treated as full fledged Englishmen, with the same voting rights in Parliament as their countrymen in the British Isles. When it became apparent that was not going to happen, that drove the revolution. Not some new vision of white man democracy. Just a larger application of it. But that had a domino effect because after losing its favorite colony, those in Britain who favored giving the remaining colonized regions similar voting rights or essentially independence in a commonwealth structure gained the upper hand. And the American experience with yeoman farmers being esteemed representatives (and even Presidents) despite not coming from royalty helped pushed all of the European power structures toward greater democratization (for white men). So I think it is hard to say what things would look like for white men in the absence of the American Revolution, and probably more importantly the second revolution in 1787. Everyone else? That’s a good question. For enslaved Africans, the Americans winning the American Revolutionary war made their situation worse for a very long time, maybe even up to now. The dependence of the American South on the labor of enslaved Africans gave the lie to all the fancy rhetoric of Thomas Jefferson and company. That terrible addiction to enslaved labor still haunts everything we in the USA do today. It is maddening that a nation so obsessed with its freedoms can be so completely careless of other’s freedom. But that selfishness is deeply rooted in some parts of the American psyche. I think there are many wonderful things about the United States, but that cancer is still killing us.
I had a completely different experience re-watching Hamilton after the recent surge in Black Lives Matter awareness than was expressed in the OP. For me, watching BIPOC individuals play the roles of white men who desired their shot and a place in history, while being in open conflict about how the achieve those goals, not only directly connected the struggles of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison to those of King, Lewis, Evers, and Malcolm X, but also to exactly what is happening on the streets with BLM marches. To me it called directly to the young BIPOC kids marching in the streets not to wait for someone else to give them justice, but to fight for it tooth and nail despite controversy and mistakes. I see the casting of Hamilton as a direct critique of the limits of the thinking and actions of the founding fathers that is intended to be a middle finger to those today who want to see the founding fathers as simply “heaven-sent messengers who gave us the greatest liberties ever enjoyed by any people or nation on earth”. I see Hamilton as one of the soundtracks to a new American Revolution for today. That was how it struck me while watching it on July 3rd and 4th anyway.
My response to Angela C’s observation, in addition to saying to her, “ very well put!”
I first noted the aversion of the Left to patriotic displays in the 2004 presidential election. At the time, I lived in Maryland, a deep Blue state that voted heavily for Kerry. I remember several people who were happy to wear a Kerry lapel, but who sneered at U.S. flag lapels.
Most of the Left seems to have a deep-seated need to emphasize the flaws in our American experiment, and makes the intellectually lazy assumption that to point out the good in America, and to display one’s American-ness, is somehow to be complicit in its flaws. So, pride in, and gratitude for, America, must be cancelled. It becomes wrong to accept anything that is not fully up to the Left’s exacting standards.
I personally believe that this oikophobia is driven by a need to feel one’s self morally superior to, and set one’s self apart from, the imperfect masses. I see this on a national political level—and also in the discussion of Mormon issues in W and T. What causes a mindset that focuses on the bad and cannot bear affirmation of the good? It degenerates into a progressive pharisaism, and hinders genuine inquiry and progress.
From Stephen Decatur: My country, May she always be right, but my country, right or wrong.
The Left will make sure that what we do to try to make things better, will never be enough. Sadly, as a collective, it is not bright enough to see how its own excesses only feed the evils of Trump-inspired nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.
Taiwan missionary, I don’t think conservatism morphed under President Trump. It enabled a man such as Trump to become its leader. President Trump exposed the underbelly of conservatism. The way I see it, there is at least a symbiotic, co-dependent relationship. Conservative leaders enable President Trump to fulfill his grandiosity, he delivers on further rolling back taxes on the wealthy, reducing accountability on corporations by reducing regulations, directing tax dollars to private enterprise, etc.
Progressives I know love America and are patriotic. We are saddened by discrediting the free press, crony capitalism; widening wealth disparity; racism, vilifying immigrants, delegitimizing lgbqt, destroying the earth, and polluting the air and water for profit, etc.
Waving the flag and loudly praising God don’t really represent patriotism or spirituality.
Recognizing nuances and a larger viewpoint are not intellectually lazy.
JBS, others, have been pushing an agenda that has captured conservatives for a long, long time. The result looks a lot like a goat nation, in every particular described by Christ in his great parable.
As far as the free press goes, may I recommend NPR, National Public Radio. It is ranked as a solidly central, neutral news source. For print (&online) find sources that follow the Society of Professional Journalism’s Code of Ethics.
SPJ’s Code of Ethics is worth looking up to understand what quality journalism is.
For tv: PBS, local Fox stations (which are are not Fox Cable News), and whichever local affiliate is not owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.
“Sadly, as a collective, it is not bright enough to see how its own excesses only feed the evils of Trump-inspired nationalism, racism, and xenophobia.”
Nationalism, racism, and xenophobia were around before the Left in the US. How about we actually blame racists and xenophobes for racism and xenophobia instead those trying to fight racism and xenophobia.
You paint such a ridiculous caricature of the Left. At least the Left is willing to do some constructive criticism of the American experiment to help it achieve its ideals. On the Right it is blind hero worship that turns a blind eye to historic xenophobia and racism and gets all fragile when someone points it out. Trump won because the Right has a serious racism problem that it has long had that it needs to address and stand up against. To some extent you can blame the Left for engaging in extreme examples of cancel culture that prop up the Right’s construction of a caricature of the Left that it uses as a sort of boogeyman to energize the conservative movement. But by that logic, excesses on the Right (which are validated by Trump and many Republicans in office) are driving Left-wing extremism. It cuts both ways. But alas, right-wing extremism has proved to be more dangerous as of recent than left-wing extremism.
Thank you, Taiwan.
Thank you, Sasso.
To think Trump won because the right is racist is a problematic argument. Trump won because the left allowed themselves to be hijacked by Clinton’s sense of entitlement. She was an awful candidate with so many scandals under her belt, not to mention her deeply disturbing attempts to discredit the victims of her husband’s satyr-like romp tbrough the halls of power. And then we have Benghazi.
Despite all that, she still won the popular vote. The presidency was all but guaranteed to the Democrats in 2016. It was their’s to lose. And they lost it. And now, despite all the exciting and fresh talent they had on the early debate stages, they have dug up another fossil from a bygone era. Four more years of the Trump nightmare, if it indeed comes to that, will be the fault of the democrats once again.
John, you’re not going back far enough. Why did Trump win the Republican primary to begin with? Because he was willing to go to a place where other Republican candidates durst not go. In so doing he energized the racist wing of the Republican Party. All Republican strategists knew they existed. But they would tell the candidates only to dog whistle to them. In 2012, the Romney strategy was to completely ignore hard white supremacists and dog whistle to the soft white supremacists (average white Republican voters who complain that immigrants are stealing our jobs, that they need to learn English, and that affirmative action is racism against whites) by claiming that Obama was weak on foreign policy and allowing all of these foreign threats to gain strength. Chavez in Venezuela, ISIS in Iraq, Russia, China, you name it. The 33 Benghazi hearings (I can’t tell you a bigger waste of tax-payer money) were a form of dog whistling. The hearings were a desperate attempt by the Republicans to smear a very quality candidate, Hillary Clinton, on whom they had to throw fake dirt on in order to tarnish. (And Hillary endured these witch hunts with the best grace I can imagine). For the Benghazi incident, in which 4 American citizens died because of a terrorist attack in a country where the US was just barely beginning to have diplomatic presence but was in a state of civil war, was enough fodder for Republicans to turn into a fake scandal and play on conservative fears that the Obama administration, especially Hillary Clinton, was botching foreign policy and allowing Muslim terrorists (Muslims I tell ya!!!) to kill an American diplomat.
Come 2016, Republicans drummed up any fake scandal on Hillary they could find (nevermind the myriad real scandals of Trump) and emails became the fake scandal du jour. Come October 2016, when Hillary is in good position, James Comey reveals that he found more emails (not that there was anything important contained in them, but their mere discovery 10 days before the election was enough to give moderates the heebie geebies and not show to vote or vote Trump, assuming that he was actually a moderate candidate and not the monster he really is.
Hillary botched her campaign, too. She didn’t focus enough on Great Lakes states and assumed that they had the Democrats’ backs. But ultimately, Trump won because of dumb luck. To blame the Democrats on Trump’s victory and not the racist base is absurd. If the George Floyd protests are any indication, anti-Trumpers have all the energy now. Trump will lose by a landslide in 2020. His stain will tarnish the Republican Party and conservative movement for years to come. The future will be liberal-led.
I assume the commenters on this site are reasonably moderate. Yet there are gross misunderstanding of what motivates the other side. Particularly the right attributes bad motives, never respecting a different point of view.
Sneered at us flag lapels. Republicans wear us flag pins to show they are republican. Not wearing one does not involve sneering, it involves a different view of the world.
This goes on and on.
If Trump is the next president, he will continue to show the right how to disrespect, and personally attack, those who do not agree with him, and he will be so empowered in his narcissism that I fear for America and the free world. The rest of the free world do not get to vote, but we suffer the consequences anyway.
If dems win, the.y will have to do it by a landslide, or Trump will refuse to go.
How America can be restored to democracy will be a big challenge. Democracy is where the majority elect a government, and then you all combine to support that government.
I really hope that John W is right, that the protests, and virus keep the left motivated, for years to come.
No one has mentioned foreign interference, but it will be coming from China as well as Russia.
There are so many changes required to how electioneering, and voting are conducted in America, and they will only be made by the left.
My ideal would be a youngish black vice president, perhaps Kamala Harris, who becomes president, after a year or 2 because Biden cant cope, and is there for two terms, perhaps with a female vp. With a cooperative house and senate America could be transformed, and deserve the support of the whole country, and regain the respect of the free world.
There is a group of free world, young female leaders, that are doing amazing things, to create, more compassionate, caring, egalitarian, just societies. They have wellbeing budgets, alongside the fiscal budget, to make sure the help is going to the needy, to make the whole country better. Even the right can feel good about uniting to create a zion like society.
Hawkgrrrl, I’m not a flag person. I don’t understand the difference between a person living in Nogales AZ, USA, and a person living in Nogales, Mexico. I was born to the North of that border.. How is someone born in Mexico different from me? How is he or she less important to me? The border is an arbitrary line drawn on a map.. I don’t understand why my life is so blessed and their are billions who have far fewer opportunities.
I spend 2 month a year is Africa. I have many friends there that I love. I spend about 10 days a year in Peru/Ecuador. I have friends there that I’m close too. These people are my neighbors. The 21st century has made it possible to engage and interact with almost anyone anywhere.
Overemphasized patriotism is a barrier to “loving our fellow humans.” So I fly many flags. the US Coast Guard (I served), the Peruvian, the Ugandan, the Belge and French (my mission), the Navajo, and the rainbow. My son served a mission in the southern Philippines and my son-in-law in Colombia. As Mormons, we should have an expansive world view.
OT: rogerdhansen I’m so envious of your travels. It’s a great wish of mine to visit Africa with as much camera equipment as I can comfortably carry. You are so lucky.
I’ve rarely met an Aussie who “hates” the United States of America – as much as Geoff Aus does….
Lefthandloafer, I had not seen your comment before. I do not hate. I thought all my comments were constructive.
I lived in Idaho many years ago, and have visited America on a number of occasions. I have the impression that many Americans, particularly on the right, are living in a bubble that only includes their view of the world, and I try, with my comments, to help you understand there are other ways of doing things, many of which work better than the conservative US way.
It is possible to respect a different point of view, and value it.
Labeling it as hate, as your president would, does not contribute to greater understanding. I will continue to try to be constructive.