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Sunday, July 4

Thoughts on the Fourth

While strolling through the garden that is the Recent Submissions page on FurAffinity, I happened across this interesting cartoon. Having a bit of a reflective bent (reflective bent what? Don't ask) today, I was intrigued by what the cartoonist is saying.

"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel," Samuel Johnson famously wrote back in 1775. He wasn't referring to what he termed true patriotism, which is love for one's country, but instead was referring to people who only paid lip service to the idea.

The modern concept of patriotism - at least, here in America - has managed to be bound almost inextricably with nationalism and even jingoism. This attitude arose during the 19th Century in America, which shows a true "pre-9/11" mindset.

The flaunting of yellow ribbons after Black Tuesday was originally touted as showing support for our armed forces, while neglecting to note that in most color symbologies yellow is the color most associated with cowardice and quarantine.

Patriotism isn't merely waving the flag and shouting slogans. It runs deeper than that, and includes a desire for the common good as well as the capacity for constructive criticism.

Yes, constructive criticism. "My country, right or wrong!" is an empty slogan here in the United States, because dissent is vital to the democratic process. You want change? You first have to find something wrong that needs changing - if our society was perfect, nothing would require change and everyone would be satisfied. Nations and institutions are built on people, and people are fallible.

(And don't give me that dreck about "Judeo-Christian values." Those were written by and are interpreted by people too, and are more honored in the breach anyway.)

Which leads me back to the cartoon. The generic canine opens the cartoon by declaiming that the Fourth is the day we celebrate our independence and express our love of country. Another character toots a vuvuzela in response.

The other three characters then tell him that they are not from America. Two are citizens of other nations, while the third is a recent immigrant. The first character's response is to snarl in the best nativist tradition, "Get the fuck out of my country."

It is possible that the cartoonist is being ironic here. I'm not sure, but the cartoon was certainly thought-provoking.

So, Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Love your country, and the diversity that makes it strong and resilient. Love it despite its flaws - or even because of its flaws, and remember that the Preamble to the Constitution states the purpose "to form a more perfect Union." The Founders knew that perfection is unattainable, but it gives you something to aim for.

So, Happy Fourth of July. Be careful with the fireworks.

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