This July 4th, let’s take patriotism back.
Since 9/11, I’ve watched as patriotism was used as an excuse for disastrous regime change wars and surveillance of the American people, as a euphemism for bigotry, and as a cover for McCarthyist hysteria and the lead up to a new Cold War and nuclear arms race.
But that’s not what patriotism is, and it infuriates me to see it abused. Patriotism is the reason I and so many of my fellow servicemembers put our lives on the line to defend our country. Patriotism is not about symbols or fake outrage. It’s about love – real, active love.
So let me tell you why I love my country.
I love our land – our forests and mountains, our rivers rolling through vast wilderness, our canyons, deserts, swamp lands and prairies – the places that have formed us in all their disparate beauty.
I love our people – drawn from every corner of the planet, every creed and every color, pulled by a promise of a better life, a new beginning, a recognition that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
I love our heritage – the tradition of representative democracy embodied in our indigenous communities that served as a model for our first Congress, those who fought to defeat the institution of slavery as former slaves, abolitionists and soldiers, the strength of our movements for women’s suffrage, labor rights, civil rights and environmental justice.
Most of all, I love our freedom. The freedom endowed by our creator. The freedom that is enshrined in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. The freedom we fight to protect:
- Freedom of speech and of the press
- Freedom of religion
- The right to bear arms
- Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure
- The right to a fair and public trial
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
It’s easy to take our freedoms for granted until they get taken away. Until you see women who are not free to move outside of their own homes without a male chaperone. Until you see children who are not free to play without the threat of land mines in their backyard. Until you see people who are not free to worship, not free to speak and publish the truth, not free to love who they love, without the threat of imprisonment.
Freedom is a real and precious thing. It is alive – in our streets, in our schools, in our houses of worship, and we must protect it. We must protect our freedom from those who seek to remove it through the violence of terrorism. We must protect our freedom from the quiet violence of surveillance and censorship. And we must protect this freedom within our own hearts and minds, our families and communities.
So this July 4th, let’s celebrate by remembering why we love our country, and commit to standing up to protect our freedoms — to live, think, worship and love in peace.