Happy Birthday, America!!
As the sun rose this morning, I thought about how divided our nation is and how some will celebrate today with a nationalistic fervor disguised as patriotism, some will celebrate with true patriotism, some will see nothing to celebrate and choose to sit this one out, and some will even celebrate without thought as to why they are celebrating, just another long weekend in the summer. And frankly, that is their right as Americans to believe and express themselves freely whether you or I agree with them or not. Generations of young men and women have fought to preserve those freedoms.
As for me, I am observing the Fourth of July by letting you know I am taking back the flag. That’s right, Old Glory, she is mine just as much as she is yours. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
All my life, I have been “accused” of wearing my heart on my sleeve. I was fortunate to grow up in a solid blue state. Growing up in a Massachusetts family as the granddaughter and daughter of mill workers and construction workers, I learned that in my American family we were proud union members, proud Kennedy Democrats and even prouder Americans.
At an early age, I developed a keen interest in politics and my viewpoints have always leaned left. While baseball is our national sport and generations of my family myself included have been proud members of Red Sox Nation, I have also enjoyed the other state sport of Massachusetts – politics. In the Commonwealth, we are known for taking our politics seriously. But here’s the thing at the end of each campaign season, like ballplayers on the softball or baseball diamond lining up to say, “Good game, good game, good game,” we shake hands and move on after congratulating our opponents on either their victory or a well fought campaign.
In my solid blue state, we often elect Republican governors; some whom I find to be better than others and some of whom I have developed a new-found respect for in the last twelve months – yes, I am talking about you Mitt Romney. The thing is in my blue state, I don’t ever recall an attitude that those who lean towards the right, that rare breed known as Massachusetts Republicans, are somehow less American than Massachusetts Democrats. They simply have different viewpoints than the Democrats. To suggest otherwise would be like claiming that Yankees fans are not baseball fans …utterly ridiculous.
Yet some time during the last decade or two, voicing a traditionally liberal viewpoint in our nation has become equated with being un-American. Slowly it appears our politics have shifted to fear based politics. In our post 9/11 world expressing liberal viewpoints has been routinely labeled anti-American. I’m a libtard or a snowflake if I express viewpoints like Black Lives Matter, women should be in control of their own reproductive choices, concern over gun violence or disdain for the current administration (when that administration is Republican that is). Having different political view points and ideology does not make any one of us less American than the other. Even our Founding Fathers had differences of opinion.
The ultra-right wing of the Republican party and the neo-Nazis, I mean alt-right, that the current occupant of the Oval Office chooses to surround himself with do not have a monopoly on Americanism and patriotism. And sadly, they alone are not to blame. We Democrats, in our silence, are as complicit, in this anti-American labeling as Ivanka Trump is to the failures and shortcomings of the current administration and her father’s cyber bullying of the press and anyone whom he perceives as a threat to his delusions of grandeur.
As clearly as I remember the discussions about politics and the unions my family belonged to, I also remember the patriotism and pride in being American expressed by the generations before me whether it be my Italian immigrant great grandmother, my first-generation Italian-American grandmother (I believe some of you today would call her an anchor baby) or my second-generation Irish-American grandfather, who took great pride in being American and often teased my grandmother about how much further back his family’s roots were in America. My proud to be American family, who believed in strong unions, Medicare, social security, women’s rights and the obligation America had to help working class Americans and routinely voted Democrat up and down the ticket were no less proud Americans than their Republican counterparts.
And neither is their granddaughter or her contemporary liberal, progressive Democrats.
As children we waved and saluted the same American Flag as you, sang the national anthem like you, and lined up for Memorial Day and Flag Day celebrations at school as we proudly sang the patriotic songs our teachers taught us for the occasion. I still remember how proud I was to learn the words of the Marines Hymn … progressing from I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy in the first grade to the Marines Hymn by fifth grade.
Additionally, our families are important to us as yours are to you. We even care about the well-being of our neighbors’ families – whether they can trace their American roots back to before the American Revolution, are descendants of immigrants, or are immigrants or refugees themselves. How’s that for family values?
Yet somehow over the last several decades, we have allowed the far “Christian” right to label us as lacking family values, being unpatriotic and un-American simply because we have different political opinions. We let you turn liberal and Democrat into bad words that ignite the wrath of your fanatical base.
So, on this Fourth of July, I want you to know enough is enough. I and hopefully millions of my fellow Democrats will no longer be complicit in our silence. We are taking back the flag and patriotism. Old Glory is no longer yours alone. The truth is that star-spangled banner never was just yours.