Story of Patriotism

Nation birthday celebrations are strange. I’m not even going to get into the 4th dimensional aspects. Let’s stick with the moment.

Most of them celebrate some symbolic or actual day when the nation gained it’s most recent identity. A few are picked out of the sky, or more likely a story.

They all tell wonderful tales. Many of them can be one note, on the surface. A group of rich men fight a group of rich men. Sometimes it’s interesting when there’s only one group, but it’s usually a predictable ending. The rich men always win. Even when they don’t, whoever won becomes like them if they want to hold power. Although a little less, each time. At least there’s progress in the cycle.

But these stories serve such a great purpose. Bringing humans together for no other reason than they live in the same arbitrarily outlined area of the universe. It’s some powerful magic they have.

Not powerful as it could be, but it’s still early days. If they knew what was in store, it would creep them right out.

They argue over how and what they celebrate mostly. They’re starting to awaken to the why, and that’s going to be fun to unfold.

More people in England will notice how celebrating St. George is kind of like endorsing the invasion of warlords that selected St. George. But it’s been long enough that many are done holding the grudge. Maybe their forgiveness should be commended.

The French one is impressively barbaric given the jokes English and American people make about their courage, which are just jealous and childish respectively. They celebrate the beginning of a bloody, violent revolution, one that crippled France for almost a century. First the rich guys lose, and then in the space of a few years, the new rich guys are even worse and basically everyone dies. Wow! What a story to celebrate.

Americans talk about “liberty or death” but after the first sign of blood they’re building gated communities and hiding. The French celebrate what they’re willing to do in the name of freedom. Apparently: anything. Push them too far and the streets will run red with blood. It makes me uncomfortable to think about it. No wonder the Americans make up school yard jokes. How can they compete?

The Americans picked the beginning of a successful war. It looks like it’s going to be perfectly normal, at first. It’s a celebration of the ratification of a document to protect the the property of the same bunch of rich men who thought it was a good idea. Sure, it might have made more sense to pick July 2nd or August 2nd. Either way, it starts off a war that can be about protecting your home and family, fighting for liberty, divine intervention, end of tyranny, secret missions, and whatever story gets common people to show up ready for murder (there was even a clause that let any person buy their way out of the war if they had enough money). It has a happy ending for the rich guys, always important. It’s easy to see why it’s a holiday.

At least until I looked closer. When they finished their revolution, 70% of the population could not participate in the government they just risked their lives for. Many of them because the way they were born. Many because they just didn’t own land or enough of it. A few because they disagreed on how to read a Bible (a lot of early birds arrived because they didn’t like other people telling them how to tell other people how to live. To this day, they still believe that they fought for the freedom to tell other people they don’t have freedom to do something. You get why this is one of my favorite nations, right?).

In only a few short decades and they let all white men vote, it took much longer for other people. They fought an extremely bloody internal war, during which they freed many men who were property with a proclamation from the President. More were freed as the war progressed to a conclusion. After the war, they passed an amendment to their laws that would free every human in the nation from bondage. Why don’t they celebrate that fact on December 18th? I guess the birthday of a God they don’t even believe in is more important (they still fight against Jesus in their hearts by hurting the poor in failed attempts to be richer).

Why not June 4th instead? It’s sufficiently far from winter celebrations. And it might be a better thing to celebrate. Not that human bondage isn’t reprehensible, but America came late to that party. The day when they finally gave women the right to vote is one of the few moral stances America was at the forefront of. Sure, some nations like Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands beat them, and some of their states, like Colorado and Wyoming, already let women vote in the 19th century. Still, for America June 4th was the final delivery of participatory government for 100% of adults, and it happened earlier than most nations.

Well, almost 100% in practice. They really, really don’t like to treat humans as equal if they can find any excuse. They kept up underhanded tactics for long time to keep people with any obvious African lineage in their genetics from voting. That ended on August 6th. A great time for summer parties. Or maybe take a page from the French. Turn Martin Luther King, the most celebrated American Bodhisattva, into a celebration. His birthday is in winter, already unpopular among people who prefer racism to equality. His assassination day is on April 4th.

It probably would send the wrong message to people with a bad habit of justifying their racism through policies they try and make look fair on paper, not to mention to the people who hate those people for some pretty good reasons. But what a message it would be! “Here is the reminder that this is what happens when you stand up for yourself in America! Liberty and death!” How many Americans would do what Reverend Dr. King did? Many are too afraid they’ll lose their status in society by changing it for the better. There’s justifiable fear about being jailed or killed. But how many would fight for their own civil rights if they knew that their only Earthly rewards were going to be a bullet, a grave, and a holiday? Maybe fireworks would become gauche, but what a story to remember about the price of freedom.

It doesn’t really need to be an either/or thing. They could celebrate any holidays they wanted. I know I’ll be celebrating Independence Day and Bastille Day. I’ll celebrate India’s Independence Day (it’s one of those straightforward ones with a mostly happy ending). I’ll celebrate German Unity Day, too. While I’m at it, I’ll celebrate August 6th and next year, June 4th (although the centennial in 2020 is going to be the big one).

But I consider myself a citizen of the planet. No government is perfect. No nation is not without its skeletons. Picking a favorite just because that’s where they let a person vote strikes me as ridiculous. Why not celebrate them all? Every person in every nation wants to be free enough to determine their own future. And the ability to do that rarely depends on a government. It takes people working together for mutual survival of something greater than the individual.

I’ll celebrate, but not for patriotism. I’ll celebrate because those ridiculous lines on a map are something humanity desperately needed for a time. Just because there have been stumbles and falls, it doesn’t mean they’re not learning to walk.

The process of a massive species learning how to walk, think, and speak. That’s worth celebrating.

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