Early this morning I tripped upon three things that really hit home, especially on this particular 4th of July weekend. The first is a viral tweet going around all sorts of social media platforms. It reads:
I think it’s more patriotic to notice the flaws in your country and want better for it than to ignorantly claim its great and disregard major problems that need fixing.
The second comes from a reading from a sermon by Saint Augustine, Bishop:
“I acknowledge my transgression,” says David. If I admit my fault, then you will pardon it. Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interest they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize , not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others. This was not the way that Davis showed us how to pray and make amends to God, when he said: “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.” He did not concentrate on other’s sins; he turned his thoughts upon himself. he did not merely stroke the surface, but he plunged inside and went deep down within himself. He did not spare himself, and therefore was not impudent in asking to be spared.(Serm. 19, 2-3: CCL 41, 252-254)
The third is part of a speech/outburst by Jeff Daniels given during the premier episode of The Newsroom. He said:
The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.The Newsroom – “We Just Decided To”
Now, before my good friends who often think I’ve lost my mind this year because of all the controversial posts I make on Facebook and Twitter start worrying about me again … let me make this very plain – I BELIEVE THAT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS THE GREATEST NATION ON THE PLANET. Compared to all over nations in the world, even with the great problems lying before us, there remains more opportunity and potential here than anywhere else. Maybe Canada, England, and Australia are close … but they’re not the greatest. We are. Period.
But we do have a lot of problems and I posit that admitting we have those problems, without spin without fear, is one of the most patriotic things we can do as Americans – even on the 4th of July.
It’s hard to admit when you fall short. It’s hard to admit when you’ve screwed up. It’s hard to admit that you’re imperfect. Our country was created to be a more perfect union – and compared to others we are.
But we are no where near perfect.
If we can admit that, if we can start to educate ourselves on what is happening with our fellow citizens, if we can go through the painful experience of admitting we’ve got serious issues, then we can be patriots and we can come together to fix those issues.
We can do that during every election and casting our votes for people who are actually willing to work on the issues, not just sit in office with feathers puffed out like peacocks, someone who just doesn’t think about why #BlackLivesMatter after people have to tweet to them or write a letter/email to them through their Congressional or State Legislative websites.
We can do that by sharing our experiences that exemplify why America isn’t perfect. We can point to the systems that continue to keep people from achieving more and in some cases just being able to live. I’m not talking about living their pursuit of happiness (although that’s a big part of it) … I’m talking about being able to breathe.
The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. Our nation was founded on some great hypocrisies. All men are equal (except for women, black people, and Native Americans). All executive power lies with the President of the United States (except when Congress or the Courts put that power in check). No law shall be passed regarding the migration or importation of slaves before 1808 (because we’re very good at kicking the can down the road).
Yes there are inconsistencies and hypocrisies all over America. Let’s admit that and then let’s get working to fix it. It’s gonna be hard. But anything that is truly patriotic is gonna be hard.
Time to get to work. Happy Independence Day.