So the Fourth of July has come and gone. I, for one, am glad to see it move along into the rear-view mirror. I hear a lot about how I lack for “patriotism” for my country. For the World Cup, I am rooting for Germany, and had been rooting New Zealand along. I barely paid attention to the US Men’s team. I do not fly an American flag in my yard, and I do not have a bumper sticker with an American flag on my car. Yet, I strapped on a United States Air Force uniform for eight years. I figure that counts for a lot more than waving a flag, sitting in a crowd near the lake while watching fireworks, or finding the nearest veteran to mouth the useless phrase “thank you for your service.” Yeah, I do hear about my “lack of patriotism” quite a bit – especially where in the ultra-conservative part of Texas.
Honestly, such criticism does not really bother me. Its nothing more than words – sometimes hateful and biting. I am an American citizen, and I do love the country I live in. Otherwise I would have moved elsewhere a long, long time ago. The fact that I do not adorn myself with the emblems and symbols of this country, nor partake in some of the gluttonous traditions that the majority of its citizenry do – well, that makes me no less an American than anyone else. I do not get into the rah-rah mode of cheering on this country in its endeavors. Considering the two “wars” that were fought in Iraq, and the veiled reasoning behind those wars…there are things that my country does that I do not agree with. Thankfully, I live in a country that allows me the freedom to dissension of such actions. But that’s merely politics, not the laws and freedoms that make this country great, in my eyes.
I am reminded, however, that its not the borders that make up a country that count nor the precise geographical location that I happen to be at, that matters. There are many, many other people on this planet that share in the larger ecosystem that I am a part of. Politically, geographically – I live in the United States, in the state of Texas, in Denton county, within the city limits of Corinth. But that does not make me greater than the street-sweeper that lives in a small village in a minor province in the western part of China. We both inhabit this ecosystem together. We are both citizens of this planet.
We are both governed by very different economic, social, and political systems. I am quite sure that his immediate ecosystem is far different from my own. Different vegetation, different animals, perhaps even very different soil and rocks – all native to where we both are – and yet as different as the two of us may be on a genetic scale. And yet, still all the same. All of us going through our daily rituals, varied as they may be, making our way through this world for survival.
Who knows? Perhaps, he and I are having very similar thoughts at the moment – about the manner in which we each connect to the immediate world around us; how our daily lives are small reflections of how we connect with the Gods (or don’t connect as the case may be). Or perhaps more likely, our thoughts are completely different. I am contemplating aspects of my own Personal Spirituality – he may be thinking something completely different. And yet we are the same. Each managing our separate lives through our varied daily routines. As Carl Sagan once noted – each made of the same “star stuff”.
I have blood relatives who take issue with the way I approach my “patriotism”. In many ways, I am an outcast in the family. I do not adhere to the hardcore, angry Christian values that most of my blood relatives hold to. Once, I was called a “disgrace to my uniform and service” by one particular cousin. He never served in the military in his career. My father, and two of his brothers did serve in the US military. In the next generation, only two of us have served. Myself, and my cousin’s sister. Its quite interesting that through this entire generation of the blood relatives, with the hardcore push of patriotism mixed deeply with angry Christian values – its the Pagan, and the Lesbian who bothered to put part of their lives on hold and serve in the military. I guarantee that there are no words of “thank you for your service” emanating from any part of the family for either of us. And yet, both of us are called out constantly concerning our “lack of patriotism”. Go figure.
No, I did not spend any part of the Fourth of July “celebrating” this country. Instead, I quietly continued on with my life, content in the knowledge that the freedoms that are a huge part of this country’s values, allows me to be the Pagan that I am – openly. And somewhat concerned that those same freedoms have allowed the citizenry of this country to fracture along political divides – calling one another names, speaking openly of how the current President is this or that, hurling insults and veiled threats across the wide, empty, binary expanse of the Internet. But honestly, you have to take the good with the bad…