"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
To the Americans, like me, who read this blog: Isn't it great that our country was founded on these words? Isn't it great that our country was founded on words?
There is a tendency in the U.S., and perhaps other places, to confuse patriotism with a belief that a country (or a government) must never be seen as being wrong. To criticize or point out problems is considered treasonous or close to it. But this country was conceived based on the idea that nothing is perfect. Our constitution was immediately amended and continues to be to this day; it is a living document that is never meant to be finished.
That's because we're built on ideas. Other places became organized because everybody already lived there or because the monarch decreed it. The United States was somebody's idea. Writers put together the concepts that would initially establish the nation but left open the possibility that changes over time would be necessary.
So the unquestioning dedication to a pledge of allegiance, the inclusion of patriotic songs at sporting events, the almost religious dedication to the flag--these are all things that, if you truly believe in them, have value. But if they're just part of the reflex of belonging to a group, if they exist because we must not question them, they run counter to the idea that started this country.
It has now been 240 years since the words above were written and signed as a statement of clarity and defiance, of purpose and explanation. We celebrate the words and we celebrate the traditions, but we should also keep in our minds the idea that was behind it all.
All people (because even Jefferson, perhaps especially Jefferson, is subject to amendment) begin life as equals. Each person is entitled, by virtue of being a person, to certain basic rights: Life. Liberty. The chance to be happy.
I celebrate those concepts. I am proud of the fact that my country came to being because of them. If I don't stand up when a recording of Kate Smith is played at a baseball game, that is my way of being patriotic. This place was conceived to revel in differences and to question everything.
I absolutely love that.
This is a revolution, dammit! We're going to have to offend SOMEBODY!--John Adams, "1776"