Four Independence Days

Fake Patriotism

This is the fourth time that this blog has celebrated Independence Day. As you all must know by now, I don’t dig on holidays. They disrupt my life. And Independence Day is particularly bad for a few reasons. First, and probably most important, is the fact that I have a neighbor who sets off loud fireworks. I don’t like explosions. Call me a killjoy, but I’m anxious enough. Second, this is a day when the worst simulacra of patriotism ooze from every pore of society. I find myself in conflict on the whole notion of patriotism. I have a great love for much of this country. I like that Americans do tend to be more positive than many other peoples; I like our naivete. I like our geography; we grabbed some of the best latitudes. I like many of our ideals; I like the vision that Thomas Paine had for this country. But I don’t like our increasing authoritarianism. People claim that we are the police men of the world, but that’s just a nice way of saying we the world’s bullies. And I don’t like that we are less and less a democracy.

I would say, nonetheless, that I am a patriot. But do you know who are not patriots? The rich. I don’t mean every single rich person, of course. But I mean the “greed is good” crowd. During the Gilded Age, the rich were awful. But they understood that they owed something back to society. They weren’t John Galt assholes who couldn’t see just how lucky they were to be born in a time and a place that compensated their skills so remarkably. Yet we have two political parties (the only parties that really matter) who kneel down to these people as though they were demigods. That is how screwed up our country is today: those who only ask what the government can do for them are worshiped. It wouldn’t be so bad if the nation as a whole recognized what was going on. This country is far on the road to the New Feudalism. When I think of the word “serf” I do not think of the pastime of Gen-X slackers. I think of the noun: slaves to our corporate (feudal) lords.

The first year of this blog, I didn’t even write about Independence Day. I wrote a comparison of the two Truman Capote biopics. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in politics. The posts right before and after that one were about economics. I don’t know what was going on. Maybe I had not yet started thinking in terms of writing for holidays. Regardless, I wasn’t writing that much at the time. There were only 8 posts that whole month.

The second year, I wrote about the lack of democracy in this country:

I always feel sad on nationalistic holidays. This is a great change from my youth when I looked forward to watching 1776 on the 4th. Now I think of Ben Franklin’s statement that the United States was, “A republic, if you can keep it.” It sure seems like a republic, at the same time I feel I am not represented. People with money are represented. Things with money are represented. But me? I don’t know. I am an outsider in my own country. I would feel far more relaxed in Mexico right now.

And then I embedded an acoustic version of one of my favorite songs, “I Felt Like a Gringo” by the Minutemen. Here is a live electric version. Man, can these guys play!

The third year, I basically just embedded this great Howard Zimm essay read by Viggo Mortensen:

My feelings about my country are those of a father whose son is a great disappointment. I love this country, but I expect far more from it. And I am not going to stop expecting more from it.

Real Patriotism
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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Four Independence Days

  1. Children love fireworks, so there’s that to be said for them. As an adult, I find every fireworks show to be exactly the same. Maybe that screwup in San Diego last year where they all went off at once would have been cool.

    Were the Gilded Age robber barons really into giving back? I think that’s more typical of the 10’s and 20’s plutocrats (who built parks and zoos and museums to educate the great unwashed, while hopefully burnishing their image as assholes. They were assholes, but some of the things they did for PR purposes are still useful today.) I’m reading a history of labor in Chicago in the Gilded Age and it was pretty much open warfare, with newspaper editors suggesting arsenic be put in relief food given out to the starving unemployed.

    My patriotism level is less of a disappointed parent and more along the lines of a baseball manager dealing with an aging superstar who was always a prima donna. You tolerate guys like that when they produce success for the team, but once their skills slip, you’d rather have a similarly weak hitter that fits well in the clubhouse. America: what have you done for your citizens lately? And the answer is, not much, not for a long time.

    Watching a ballgame today, I thought . . . how many times a year do we need to be reminded that we owe Our Freedom To Our Heroes? We get it in spades on Memorial Day (originally an anti-war protest by widows/sisters/mothers of Confederate dead.) We get it on the Fourth (which used to be about fun with barbecues and finger-endangering explosives, but now is just more treacly sentiment for the military.) Veteran’s Day is coming up. On each, the media remind us to honor our silent, unappreciated protectors. But these holidays are all six weeks apart! It’s almost like the military is an insecure girlfriend asking "do you think I’m pretty" every other date.

    This stuff echoes Kipling’s disdain for "making mock ‘o uniforms that guard you while you sleep," as though anyone dares criticize our empire at this point. It’s a shame we don’t have a holiday (Memorial Day, perhaps?) for the sentiment Kipling expressed after his son was killed in WWi (a war he fervently pimped); "if any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied."

  2. @JMF – I don’t mean to suggest that the gilded age titans were anything but assholes when it came to business. As Zizek says of today’s "good" titans, they destroy the economy with one hand and try to fix it with the other. Even Hershey, who has been raised to the status of a saint only liked it when he chose how to give his money. He hated unions, for example. But there is less recognition today of the extreme level of luck the successful have had. (Hershey, btw, stole all of his ideas.)

    All this "support the troops" came about from the Persian Gulf War because everyone was afraid of another Vietnam. (The idea that we "lost" that war because of lack of support is ridiculous; we could still be fighting there today.) But it has morphed into nothing but a feel good but meaningless phrase. Roughly 70% of the people have a positive view of the military. But that’s because they don’t know what the military does and they don’t care. I think the military does a damned good job of what we ask them to do, [i]just like every other government bureaucracy[/i]. But I don’t think for a minute that they keep us safe. They’re about ten times to big for that.

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