Everyone who has a slightly racist uncle/parent/grandparent on Facebook is probably familiar with this image format and caption: some patriotic image with words like, “If you don’t like [random bullshit patriotic gesture] than you can get the hell out!” Respecting the flag, respecting our ‘customs,’ respecting our language (lol), and so on. It’s always about respecting something. I did a little work to find a representative example of one. Here ya go:
On this 4th of July, in the year of Satan 2020, I’ve been finding myself reflecting on the state of America. Do I hate the place? No. Do I hate what we’ve become? Yes. Do I think we have much more potential that we can live up to? Yes. Am I ashamed to be an American — sometimes yes and sometimes no — but I’m still an American and I feel like my opinion on the state of the country as important as any other citizens. Which is where my issue with silly memes like these begin.
Pictures like these and the others shared by your slightly-racist family members have a ton of implications to them. In the case on the one above, I find it strange that ‘democrats’ are grouped in along with ‘illegals’ which says a whole lot. To be a democrat you’re probably a citizen of the US, and grouping them with ‘illegals’ seems really silly. It’s basically saying that democrats are the same tier of American as illegal aliens which is a totally bullshit statement. Immigrants are a strange inclusion too because I assume they mean ‘legal immigrants’ because if they were illegal they’d be, well, the ‘illegals’ mentioned above. Meaning that being a citizen of the US who is also an immigrant makes them somehow ‘less American’ than the second-, third-, or fourth-generation Americans like most of us probably are.
What really bothers me here is the ownership of America that conservative like to claim. Like America doesn’t mean different things to different people and that they’re somehow the holders of the American Flame and Spirit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen, if you’re not a conservative citizen somehow your view of America is flawed in some way. Like you just don’t get it, maaaaan. And fuck that viewpoint because I’m a goddamn American like any other flag-waving, gun-toting cousin-fucker in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, and my love for America is worth as much as theirs.
I’m also not a fan of the “fixed America” viewpoint that conservative love to stand behind. The image above (and all Facebook-Uncle-images really) seem to view America as something concrete. Like there are fixed customs, beliefs, and traditions that you need to respect and that any change to them is somehow Unamerican. I sometimes think this is the main conservative viewpoint: change is bad. America is basically perfect — the big-dick swingin’ country that controls the entire damn world — and any flaws that America does have are blown out of proportion. There is no need to move forward because America is something already perfect and moving forward is an insult to it. In short, why fix what isn’t broken?
It seems liberals like to view America as non-perfect, in need of some serious love and care and progress to become what America should be. I’m one of them and my view of America is a work-in-progress towards the ideals written down in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. You know: all men are created equal; life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness; and so on. We all know what it means to be American — that you have a fair chance in the world to live up to your potential, that people aren’t biased against based on anything besides their merits, and that justice will be served against those that break those tenets — but any liberal realizes that all of that is a farce. America, to get to where we are today, had to do a ton of work, a ton of fighting, and America was nowhere near perfect in the late 1700s. In fact, the original America was ass-backwards from what was written down in the Declaration and the Constitution.
This conservative idea of what America is is flawed from the start because the ‘ideal America’ they envision is one that has been changed for the better numerous times since the signing of the Constitution. Hell, the Constitution even acknowledges that it must be fluid to keep with changing times, hence the amendment process. From the start, the founding fathers knew that change would have to occur, and change has occurred. Hell, the 19th Amendment — the document that gave women the right to vote — hasn’t even been around for 100 years! 18 year-olds couldn’t vote until 1971, and before the Civil Right Movement employers could openly discriminate against people by their skin color. Income taxes weren’t even a thing until 1909 and Social Security (a thing conservatives love to ramble about liberals ‘threatening’) wasn’t a thing until the 1930s, curiously passed by the raging and filthy liberal Franklin Roosevelt. And you can’t forget the Big One here: slavery. Slavery was totally legal until the 1860s. Think about it, the right to own other people as property was totally legal 160 years ago, and does anyone really think slavery is part of the ‘ideal America?’ My point here is that the America we all know and love — and the America that conservatives love to view as something fixed, sacred, and perfect — has been changing all the damn time.
I feel like the founding fathers had the right idea about freedom and liberty but just couldn’t pull it off at the time. As we progress as a society we find new freedoms that people do not have. Think of the most recent legalization of gay marriage; I don’t think the founders could’ve even thought about extending freedom to gays back in 1790 simply because it was the 1790s. We’ve come a long way since then, and trying to keep anything fixed in terms of a ‘real America’ seems stupid and useless from the start and misses the entire point of what America — the ideal America — should be.
So those are my thoughts on America this 4th of July. I love America despite being a progressive. I love the ideals that we were founded upon, but don’t think we’ve lived up to our potential yet. We don’t have the society free from bias and hate that the founders had envisioned. We’re closer than we were 100 years ago — women can vote and kids don’t have to work 15 hours in a factory — but with the Black Lives Matter protests, racism, and the rise of right-wing fascism we seem further away from the ideal America than we did ten years ago. American has been and always will be a work in progress with the path paved by dissenters and people who fight for what is right despite the popular views or dominant social trends of their times. Sometimes I feel like America is shit, like it’s going down the drain, like it’s all falling apart, but America is something I want to fight for. I’m goddamn proud to be an American.
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