I mean it God Bless America.
Of course, God should bless Ethiopia and Ghana, Botswana and Australia, Papa New Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and Guinea Pigs and People with Swine Flu and the one that flew over the cuckoos nest.
But I digress. I meant to talk about America.
I love America. I really do. I was listening to Whitney Houston's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, and I was struck by the fact that I am one of the most patriotic people I know. And, as it turns out, I know a whole helluva lot of patriotic people.
Mark Twain said that ".....the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it."
Most of the people I know are desperately devoted to this nation. Though, before I continue, the term nation begs definition. Nation, in this sense, is a collection of people living within the same political boundaries and forming a single polity. That is my own definition of nation, and it is the one that works for me. My definition purposefully excludes First Nation's people living on reservations as they form a polity separate from those of us that are not living on reservations, they constitute a collection of independent sovereign states, and it is with their sufferance that the rest of us occupy the land that forms the physical constitution of our nation.
Now that I have defined nation, I can go back to my original thesis: I am ridiculously patriotic and so are most of my friends.
With all of my heart I believe that this nation is, actually, the greatest on the Earth if looked at through a very subjective lens. I actually believe that in the history of developed nation-states (this purposefully excludes tribal or indigenous groupings) the United States has the most highly developed form of constitutional liberties (though the governmental structure could use some work...can we say proportional representation please) in history. The Founding Fathers, though many were slave owning racists, were quite literally geniuses. There is a reason why most democracies in the world radically altered their basic structures owing to our form of representative democracy. Sure, we didn't invent all of our democratic principles. Most of them were based on ancient Greek city state political practices and Roman law, and sure when we started we defined "people" as white men that owned property, but as history has progressed and human consciousness has developed (or redeveloped as it were...considering not long before Columbus "discovered" America, Europe was fully aware that the universities in Sankore and the Songhai Empire in Africa were the most advanced in the world...and that European academics were considered too dumb to teach there)...America has made leaps and bounds in terms of real protections for most people most of the time in relationship to personal liberties. In fact, we have often times overbalanced the rights of the individual at the cost of the rights of the collective or community,
Considering that I believe our nation is, at its core, based on generally vibrant principles that usually promote the greatest freedom of a person to develop as a human being (it's outer limits defined by the realities that uphold capitalism), I also believe that fundamentally it is incumbent on each person to question at all times whether or not our government is acting in the best interests of all its people AND owing to its place in the world community acting in a way that upholds the same principles it values for its own people for the rest of the world. If we apply the golden rule to politics, and we do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves, then we must require that our government act with integrity and in a just manner. To do otherwise shirks our commitment to the nation, which is greater than our obligation to the government and thusly requires that a true patriot speak truth to power in order to ensure that the nation is well even if it means the government must change, end, or be overthrown.
For the last eight years, I offer, it was actually unpatriotic to support President Bush and his policies. The Patriot Act aimed a knife directly at the throat of American civil liberties, and if you apply the test that the only rational patriotism is support of the nation all of the time over the prerogatives assumed by the government then the rights of the people to live freely under the Constitution trumped the actions of the government to abrogate those rights to protect national security. National security is best served all of the time by protecting the full human rights and constitutional protections of the people with the full force of the government, which is its representation, not it's dictator.
Last November we elected a new president that campaigned against the degradation of our proud nation (as opposed to our sick and twisted government), and, for now, though I have harsh critiques of Obama, particularly his failure to end our occupation of Iraq, his politicking that made single payer health care a political dream instead of an American reality, and his use of too many of the same old same old faces and power players from previous administrations in his current administration, I believe that right now...it is patriotic to critique Obama where he needs critique but it is also patriotic to support his efforts to make this government better in line with the best interests of its people AND as its people are citizens of the world and do not live in a special isolated land where our actions do not impact the lives of others...he must also continue to act in a way that upholds the human rights and inherent value of all humankind wherever they may live.
God Bless the people of the United States and God help the United States government.