04 July 2007

Nothing Says America Like Blowing *Expletive* Up

The Fourth of July is an interesting holiday, especially in Georgia. Here, it is illegal to buy, sell, or set off fireworks (though you can own them). Which means one thing: for those of us with the time and money, a trip to the nearest state border to buy the "goods". Then, the search begins for an empty field (unless you're lucky enough to have friends or family with large tracks of land). Because nothing says America like a few broken laws and explosions.

Really, though, why do we celebrate Independence Day the way we do? Fireworks are Chinese. Bratwurst, Hamburgers, and Frankfurters are German. Beer is Mesopotamian, though the Germans perfected it. Most of our national music can trace its origins, at least stylistically, to Britain. Even the ideals on which this nation are based, the Enlightenment, is really a product of Europe, we are just the grand experiment.

I think these many traditions show that the US really is a melting pot (please forgive the cliché). Every time a new group of immigrants comes in, they are initially met with resistance (the Irish, the Chinese, and now the Mexicans), but sooner or later, their culture is adopted. It remains unique, but blends so perfectly. All one has to do is read a high school yearbook and see the long list of last names and consider their origins. And this is what we are celebrating, and doing so through application. John Adams, two days before the Declaration of Independence was adopted, told his wife that he hoped the nation would mark the occasion's anniversary with parties, sports, parades, music, illuminations, bonfires, and, in general, a good time.

"But Drew, should Christians take part in celebrations of countries when we are called to be 'not of this world'?"
Well, Timmy, I'm glad you asked (ok, so there is no Timmy, but I couldn't think of a transition).

I've heard both sides of this argument, and think that both hold some validity. Obviously, the idea that God favors the US over other nations and Americans over other people is baseless and pretty stupid. God loves everybody regardless of national identity (or anything else, and I think that some in the so-called Christian right would do well to remember this). But I do think that God favors free nations, and the US is among the first. Many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament show God's favor for the oppressed, and as the US and other free nations attempt to become the "new colossus", I think God supports them.

The second argument I've heard is that it's pointless to be proud of the country you were born into, as you have no say in the matter. If this is the case, it is just as pointless to be proud of family members. Should we think that our nation is the best? Certainly not. We've made our mistakes, and will continue to do so. But to condemn those who appreciate their nation and national identity is as equally mistaken as vitriolic nationalism. I would suggest that the disagreement over patriotism comes from differing definitions of the word pride. One suggests the pompous, arrogant attitude of nationalism. This is always wrong - this pride does, in fact, come before the fall. But there's also pride in the sense of appreciation - I appreciate the nation I was fortunate enough to be born into. Though I do admit, it is a fine line to walk.

Rock on.

1 comment:

John said...

Excellent post. We have nothing to be proud of in where we are born, but we have much to be thankful for. Nationalistic pride reminds us of what we should have pride in.