I nominate myself for the least patriotic person on the planet. It’s not that I’m unpatriotic, precisely, but I’m determinedly pragmatic. If I were selecting my country of citizenship like picking out a new car to buy, sure, I’d kick the tires of this nation of my birth. I’d appreciate many of the amenities. But doing the accounting when it comes to quality of life, personal liberty, and the alignment of core values, I’d have to say that the U.S. probably wouldn’t be the model I drive off the lot.
I realize this makes me a bad American. Not just to criticize, but to summarily judge this country to be inferior is not just offensive to many, its an unpardonable sin.
When the New York legislature recently passed a new law granting a legally recognized status to same-sex marriages, the crowd of LGB activists in the gallery erupted into incoherent shouts of joy that quickly coalesced around a deep, passionate chant: “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A…”
I thought to myself, What does that even mean? I usually hear that chant at sporting events, where the crowd is crowing about their faith in the inherent, divinely sanctioned superiority of America. Surely those activists didn’t intend to imply that. As a nation, the law of the land continues to be the “Defense of Marriage Act.” As for the USA, we aren’t even going to break into the top 10 nations in order of when they eliminated legal barriers between the benefits afforded to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
I suppose the activists chanting “U-S-A” upon the passage of the New York marriage equality bill may have been thinking ahead. Perhaps they were arguing for what was accomplished in New York to sweep across the rest of the USA. In that case, I’m left wondering why marriage is our rallying cry, rather than employment or housing protection. Why is the vision of equality for sexual minority Americans limited in scope to being granted the same faulty, broken, bankrupt institution of socio-religiously defined monogamous marriage that heterosexuals are fleeing in droves? And what about our national priorities that promote the spread of poverty and hunger? What about our political agenda to strip public education and health and human welfare funds and place them directly in the wallets of corporate robber barons and vampiric oil speculators? What about our irrational fear of collective welfare that prevents us at all costs from deciding that all Americans will have basic health care and safe homes and enough to eat and family planning resources and the compensated value of family caregiving and human dignity in old age… Perhaps we should check in with the activists of prior civil rights agendas right about now. Let’s ask the women in this country who get paid pennies on the dollar for their work about how it feels to have achieved the pinnacle of legislative equality nearly 100 years ago. Let’s ask our black brothers and sisters about how fulfilled they feel in their attainment of legal equality with the passage of the Civil Rights Act more than 45 years ago. These key battles that we concede the power to define our citizenship and equality and hopes and aspirations for ourselves and our national identity invariably move us merely inches in the miles of distance that stand between us and liberty.
I’m a bad American. I know it. I live always teetering on the edge of deciding whether to flee this country with each national election that illustrates that nearly or a little more than half of our voting populace desperately wants political leaders who are as ill-educated, religiously fanatical, bigoted and ignorant as they are. It’s not that I think any other country has their shit all together either, of course. But tallying up what I think are the priorities and values that I hope to guide the community in which I enthusiastically participate and identify, I have to say, the USA is not in the top 3.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.