What does it mean to love your country, to be a patriot? Roman soldiers swore oaths to a consul or emperor, knights to their lords, lords to their kings- to serve the state meant to serve a man.
We in the United States chose a different path, once. We gathered many rich and fallible white guys together in 1789, and their type has been running things ever since (more or less). But they didn’t emerge from Philadelphia asking people to pledge them fealty as they established the new Kingdom of The Americas. They emerged with a document, containing the machinations of the state but also its principles; it was to this they asked people to be loyal. This document, the U.S. Constitution, would be the state, and to support that document and those principles was to be a patriot.
And the best thing about that document is its amendability, because there was a lot of bullshit in there and some important stuff left out, too. And so we are free to strike all the slavery bits and add the good stuff, like a ban on the state’s ability to suppress political speech and the guarantee of equal protection under the law (unless you’re a girl, sorry all my fellow ERA fans).
But these are dark times, where patriotism has been corrupted and twisted into something darker. People who call themselves patriots want their country back, want to crush traitorous democrats, want family values. They want to love a country that’s Christian and dominated by white people, where gay people don’t flaunt their sexuality and father knows best, where black people know their place and blue lives matter so shut up shut up SHUT UP. They want to Make America Great Again after 8 horrible years under a fucking black guy.
These people aren’t patriots, they’re dupes or fascists. They don’t love liberty and equality, they just hate the other. And neither are their masters in the high offices of government and business that dominate our politics- they’ve become a nation unto themselves, concerned only with their own bottom lines.
Our country isn’t just its people or its government officials- it’s our ideals and aspirations. We should aspire to be a country that recognizes all citizens as having rights to liberty and to pursue their own happiness, that promotes the general welfare, that doesn’t govern without the consent of the governed. Loving and fighting for that is what makes someone a patriot, so remember that and have a happy Independence Day.