We’re proud of our past instead of our progress. We stake our identity in the past and cling to it, rather than forging it in the future and shaping who we can become. We make the Constitution into an impermeable truth that holds us back, rather than engage with it as a living document intended to be changed as we move forward.
We’re proud of our traditions instead of our actions. We find emotional comfort in our flags, songs, buildings and statues, but ignore the discomfort of living out the ideals they’re supposed to represent. We uphold the sentiment of patriotism, instead of upholding our neighbors as an act of patriotism.
We’re proud of our politics instead of our people. We place moral self-righteousness in obeying laws that harm people (unless the law is inconvenient for us) rather than changing laws so they help people. We honor the legacy of those who fought a war for the freedom to oppress others, rather than the oppressed who fought for the freedom of others. We’ve made enemies of the foreigner rather than celebrating the diversity of our nation founded by undocumented immigrants.
We celebrate the entitlement of personal freedom, rather than value the sacrifice of personal freedom for the well-being of others.
We say “America First” and “We’re the greatest country in the world,” rather than simply being great and letting others say that about us. For American Christians, that becomes problematic when Jesus’ words were:
“The first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” and “ the least among you all is the one who is the greatest.”
I believe that within the American dream and the American spirit lies the values of sacrifice, generosity, compassion, peace, justice, equality, and progress. It too often lies under the “patriotic” facade of self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-preservation.
America is great when we realize that despite all our flaws, we can still move forward towards our ideals. We lose sight of that when we deceive ourselves into thinking our past is greater than our future, especially when our future presents greater challenges.
Celebrate America and be proud to be an American – not under the facade of self-declared greatness and freedom, but under a continued commitment towards true freedom and justice for all.