This vast nationwide mandatory celebration would offer no room for nuance, much less dissent. Trump’s patriotism is simplistic and restrictive, rejecting the notion that citizens under his leadership could feel alienation and anger towards a country to which they also feel passionately attached. For Trump, the nation is made up of “freedom-loving Americans” who support his vision and “hooligans, misfits and Marxists” who seek to undermine that vision.
The insistence that true patriotism means pure adoration and celebration is evident in Republican attacks on any teaching that dares to acknowledge the existence of history that might taint a triumphalist account of America’s inexorable progress. Many conservatives see education about Native dispossession, chattel slavery, and other forms of discrimination past and present as « indoctrination, » dividing Americans and dividing white students to feel bad about themselves and their place in history of the United States.
For progressives, such panic under the umbrella of critical race theory—or, in the workplace, DEI—is true indoctrination, an effort to whitewash public life and erase from history the movements and populations they oppose. . This sense that discrimination is not just ignored, but actively supported was confirmed last week when the Supreme Court ruled to relax legal protections for LGBTQ Americans and abolish affirmative action.
But if conservatives feel uncomfortable addressing our violent and complicated past, we progressives struggle with how to celebrate this place we love. Indeed, such political discourse makes many of us skittish: How can we express civic pride in an era of right-wing backlash? How can we talk about love of country when that country was built with stolen labor on stolen land? Uncomfortable with self-aggrandizing and idealized portrayals, progressives are more comfortable with criticism than praise, more comfortable highlighting hypocrisy than extolling the aspects of American life that make us proud.
But highlighting hypocrisy and violence is also incomplete. First, it makes it easier for the law to caricature our beliefs and commitments. But more importantly, failing to articulate our complex feelings of pain and belonging is also an injustice to the reality of how much we feel and worry about the future of this earth. And while many of us may feel uneasy with flag-waving nationalism, we live the civic values and ideals that embody a love of country. We are connected to this place we call home. And while many of us also have diasporic and transnational ties to other people and places we love, belong to, and care about, that doesn’t diminish our sense of connectedness and love we feel for This place – to local communities and even the nation.
I argue that our complicated feelings about America — our commitment, our heartbreak, our hopes, our fears — offer a way out of aggressive patriotism and toward a better, more just, and beautiful view of civic life. and of belonging open to all of us.
We have an underutilized civic legacy to draw on. We have Frederick Douglass speech of 1852”What is the 4th of July for the slave?” in which Douglass labels American republicanism under slavery “a farce” while also claiming the Constitution as “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.” We have 1848 Seneca Falls Statement, a document modeled after the Declaration of Independence calling for the right to vote and other political rights for women. We have 1966 Black Panther Party Ten Point Program, a document concluding his calls for black liberation by citing the Declaration of Independence. We have Juneteenth which marks the end of slavery and LGBTQ+ pride festivals which commemorate the Stonewall uprising.
These parties and posters are also founding documents of America. After all, they are all civic demonstrations that make room All our feelings – of joy, pain, longing, joy and anger. None of them are perfect, but they all remind us that the choice isn’t between showdown or celebration.
We need something richer than patriotism and something more than righteous indignation and anxious disavowal. As a people, we have to reckon AND celebration.
So this 4th of July, remember this day is ours to claim. Celebrate what you love and mourn what is lost. And don’t forget to enjoy the fireworks.