My country, right or left

23 July 2021

4:34 PM

23 July 2021

4:34 PM

A funny thing happened to me this Fourth of July and, at the risk of having every jaded member of the blue-check Twitterati respond, ‘I’ll take things that didn’t happen for $200, Alex,’ I’m going to tell the story.

My aunt and uncle invited me and my husband to join them in their annual excursion to the Fourth of July celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. This has become a ritual for us and as it was the first event at the Bowl since the pandemic, everyone was in a festive mood. For the occasion, I wore American flag leggings and a headband that spelled out U-S-A. On springs.

As we settled into our box, we chatted with the women drinking wine and eating tapas next to us. Standard small talk. How excited we were to be back at the Bowl. What a gorgeous night it was. How nice it was to be out among thousands of people. How normal things felt.

One of the women said to me, ‘Can I ask you a question? And I hope it doesn’t offend you.’ I thought surely she was going to ask me if I was pregnant or some other inappropriate question pertaining to my body.

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘And good luck offending me.’

The woman leaned in and said under her breath, ‘Are you…’ — her voice lowered to a whisper — ‘… a Republican?’

I burst out laughing. We had said nothing political, not even anything political-adjacent, so I had no idea what made her draw that conclusion. I asked, ‘What made you think I’m a Republican?’

‘Shhhh…don’t say that so loud,’ she said. She gestured to my pants and headband and, again under her breath, said, ‘I just don’t see people your age, or any young people for that matter, expressing any patriotism, so I assumed…you know…’. She trailed off. ‘It makes me sad. My late husband came from Israel. He loved this country. So…are you?’

I did — I always do — my best to explain where on the political spectrum I exist now. Independent. Politically homeless. Not captured by either dominant party and not represented by them either. But I was raised by extremely patriotic Yankee liberals. Until recently, I voted blue-no-matter-who. My grandfather fought in World War Two and I thank God every day that he died the Christmas before 9/11 — it would have killed him to see America attacked.

Today, the Democratic version of patriotism seems to be an endless stream of resentment and self-loathing. I don’t believe this is representative of most moderate left-wing Americans. It’s fashionable among angsty, gender-refusing teens, journalists, the activist class and Robin DiAngelo liberals to hate America. But America, even ‘liberal’ America, is much bigger than all of them combined.

Over the holiday weekend, the New York Times tweeted: ‘Today, flying the American flag from the back of a pickup truck or over a lawn is increasingly seen as a clue, albeit an imperfect one, to a person’s political affiliation in a deeply divided nation,’ with a link to their piece, ‘A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite’.

In June hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the American flag as the national anthem was played at the US Olympic Trials. She’s another spoiled child who lacks perspective and has no concept of sacrifice or gratitude. I think of the speech my grandfather gave on Armistice Day 1963 and marvel at how far we’ve fallen:

‘My fellow citizens, we seldom recall that our own Newport once greased under the heel of an invader’s boot. The trees of this island were cut down, its flocks and herds ravished, its people troubled and molested for two long years by an English garrison. Why, the house which the British general occupied as his headquarters still stands on the northeast corner of Pelham and Spring Streets! But that was all nearly 200 years ago, during the Revolutionary War, before our nation was born. Since that time never has an invading army ringed our city or tramped through our streets or plundered our homes. We, and all the rest of this country, have been protected because, times beyond numbering, brave men have stood on distant battlefields and stopped with their living flesh the bullets of our enemies.

‘Compared with their massive sacrifice, how puny are our words of eulogy, how feeble our expressions of gratitude! In the final analysis there are but two services we can render to the fallen heroes of our country: we can commend them to a mercy beyond this world, trusting that a hand infinitely more generous, incomparably more powerful than ours will suitably recompense them for the deaths they died that this nation might live; and we can do all in our power to see to it that those men did not die in vain; that the flag they struggled and bled for will continue to wave over a land of life, of liberty, of the pursuit of happiness.’

Maybe the problem isn’t that no one on the left still loves America — millions still do. It’s that if you show it, you’re considered right-wing.

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