“To the Republic for which it stands“ This is my favorite phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance. I am often not proud of what the country is but I am proud of what it hopes to be. Its ideals are aspirational. When I see the flag I feel pride, shame and hope. Pride for the times we have lived up to our ideals, shame for the times we have not, and hope that even though the arch of history bends slowly, it bends toward justice.
I worry that sometimes we think love of country is enough–as if we can somehow overlook our need to understand and navigate deep, complicated issues with deep feelings of devotion. As if somehow our demonstrative examples of love of country justify our lack of daily civic engagement. We eulogize and memorialize the fallen soldier, as we should. However, that can be no excuse for not caring for the mentally and emotionally broken ones who live among us. We honor the pioneer of yesteryear, yet fail to give respect to the struggling working class of today. America is no stronger than the weakest among us. Love of country must also mean love of our fellow man.
I firmly believe that love of country can not be an excuse to absolve ourselves from our responsibility to country. Love of country should inspire us to be better, reach higher, love deeper and work with a unwavering zeal to be the city on a hill that 17th century colonist John Winthrop saw in vision—the nation Katherine Bates must have longed for when she penned these words:
Oh, beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
So this year as I attend parades, concerts and fireworks I am looking for comfort, hope, healing and inspiration as to what my part is in helping this great country live up to its ideals.