On this Independence Day, don't let anyone tell you what it means to be an American.

Don't let whoever can shout the loudest define who is and is not a Real American.
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Ronald Reagan and Audie Murphy were Americans. So were Sandra Bland and Mother Jones and Fred Hampton and Eugene Debs and Paul Robeson.

Don't let other people use their total ignorance of history to invent an America that never was and then insist that we must return to it – an America devoid of slavery, inequality, Indian genocide, gender discrimination, and white supremacy.

Don't let anyone rewrite American history as an unbroken tableau of pure Rugged Individualism devoid of collective action, community, public goods, and the role of central government.

Don't feel ashamed to assert the difference between patriotism and jingoism just because the people around you think they are one and the same.

Don't forget that Mel Gibson or Chuck Norris or John Wayne war films are not documentaries. They are idealized fantasy versions of what in reality were struggles that required monumental collective sacrifice and effort to achieve success.

Don't let anyone forget that this country has, for more than 300 years, become home to people of every language, skin color, religion, nation of origin, and ethnicity. Rarely have we succeeded in welcoming all of these people with open arms, but we have the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and recognize how much better we are for it.
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Don't support the fallacy that America has buried all of its problems in the past; that, OK, maybe a few people used to be racist but now we elected a black president so racism is over; that the drum beat of war hawks may have led us astray a few times, but this time is different; that we used to discriminate against women but stopped, and we used to treat poor people badly but now we don't, and that unfettered Robber Baron capitalism brought us to ruin once but this time just you watch and see the magic.

Don't let anyone convince you that it's OK to vilify other Americans to justify one's own failures.
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The poor did not steal your money. The Mexicans did not steal your job. Nobody is coming for Your Women or your guns or your Bibles.

Don't be silent when people voice support for denying rights to other Americans that they demand for themselves.

Don't let descriptions of the Good Ol' Days go unchallenged, without pointing out how many people had to be oppressed and discriminated against to allow white middle class America to enjoy the post-War prosperity to the extent that it did.

Don't listen to rants about The Young People These Days without recognizing how many advantages our predecessors had that young people today do not and never will have.

Don't be swayed by symbolism and empty emotional appeals. Think about what being an American means rather than shouting bumper sticker slogans.

Don't forget to remember all that we do have without forgetting all of the ways in which we can do better.

And, most importantly, no matter how much as it seems like a good idea to light a firework while it's in your hand, trust me on this one. It isn't a good idea.


  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Don't believe that The Correct Side has all the answers and must be defended at all costs. Step out of the clubhouse. Listen to someone without having to agree about everything. Empathize.

  • I love America more than ever now that I'm living as an ex-pat in Asia.

    There are forces at work that are actively trying to drag it backwards into a nightmare of racism, misogyny, and general selfishness. There are forces that should be curb-stomped, repeatedly.

  • And when people want to go on about how our service men and women deserve our respect and admiration – remind them that our teachers, our caregivers, our dissidents and all the people who do the daily work of the nation deserve our respect and admiration.

  • And just like that my dilemma over this ridiculous presidential election is solved. I’m writing in Ed.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    (Not so) Dear Conservatives,
    Levels of patriotism are not determined by volume, but by actions.

  • Steven Frisch says:

    Great post Ed. My father a history professor taught me that being an American means constantly driving to create a more perfect Union and that each of us has a responsibility to be part of the play. Happy Independence day.

  • This ranks as one of my favorites of yours. And I think it's probably the only short-listed one without a specific, current target.

  • Well, I guess I'll be the cynic for today. I'm planning on researching real estate in British Columbia.

  • Skepticalist says:

    An excellent post and it covered a lot of what I wanted to say. Nice.

    It is a great country but I hope we get over what I call our "flag fetish." I've gotten flak for not displaying one of mine when I forgot to hang one out. Sadly, I'm reminded that I'm less patriotic when this happens.

    Being the geezer I am, every time I hear of the good old days sixty years
    ago it makes me cringe. My best friend went out of his way to lie to
    his new friends that his family was French rather than Italian. I'm not religious but this really gets to me. Catholics were given a hard time in NYS back then. We weren't so fussy about the French of course. Every town has a street named for Lafayette.

    This is one good example of our ability to learn however. Good for us.

    Have a happy 4th.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Only thing wrong with this post is that it's not syndicated in 400 newspapers across the country. No expletives to edit out, even.

    I guess I could put it on my Facebook page. So my 2 friends can see it.

  • My thanks too, Ed. Nice to get a positive reminder the U.S. is an experiment in progress.

    I usually take time on or around the 4th to reread the Declaration and Constitution, including amendments, noting changes and time frames. We would have the mechanism to eliminate, say, Gerrymandering except the Tea Party faction is well on the way to controlling 3/4's of state legislatures.

    Let me share a quote I stuck on the 'fridge in 2003 from then Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson. "Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism".
    Still there and I've cited it often since then.

  • As a liberal Willie Nelson fan might say:

    "Mamas, don't let your babides grow uo to be Carrstones!".

    @ Skepticalist:

    How many of those Troop at riot RilMurKKKans that criticize your lack of manly patriotism will go down to the local biker bar and tear their Nazi and Slaveryokeydokey flags off their clubhouse walls? Thought so.

  • Been a silent reader here on and off for a while now. Great post.
    I'm a 1st generation immigrant who came here 17 years ago driven by the idea of America and what it stood for. Of late, however, I've been having doubts about continuing to be here – your post is a good reminder of why I came here in the first place. Gives me hope. Ed, thanks for being a true American and for taking the trouble to express it in such an articulate fashion.

  • Mother Earth says:

    Thank you. I was so weary of all the patriotic posts on social media. Excellent post, happy 5th!

  • I declined to go to a fading friend's house for 4th of July because the people at her gathering would all be doing all of those things you have listed. I just can't listen to it anymore.

  • democommie says:

    Is it too much to hope for–that somebody might do "The Fixin' To Die Rag" on the National Mall while the pyrorgazm is going on?

  • The problem is Hillary is so awful. Not for the skree skreee skree of this numbskull's essay, but because of her craven support for every single war of the last thirty years.

    Trump is a fascist pig, but…

    Clinton is unquestionably a first class war criminal by the standards of the Nuremberg tribunal. She's had a major role sometimes a direct hand in the murder of at least 1 1/2 million people in the Middle East, the destruction of six nations and most of the region, And the generation of 65 million refugees so far

    Donald Trump has never been accused of so much as punching someone nose. Yes somehow he is the fascist and the actual murderous Lady Macbeth gets off as some kind of heroine.

    The same is true of deporting illegals. Obama has deported millions, more the all the other presidents combined. Yet he's treated with saintly reverence. While Trump is portrayed as a craven fiend.

    Amazing propaganda coup.

  • I meant to put in a quote source for part of the above. It's from a…questionable…source (The National Interest) but I agree with this here. Sometimes hard right (paleos) writers like Daniel Larison are better than craven "Cruise Missile Liberal" mainstream writers on foreign policy. Even if they are right for the wrong reasons.

  • New York Times today had a story on Wigan, which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Nostalgia for an Age that Never Existed Indeed.

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