What does being American mean to you? To me, it means a multitude of things. Mostly, it means that anyone that loves this country doesn’t have to love what you say, but we have to fight for your right to say it. Now, that doesn’t mean that people don’t get the First Amendment confused. They absolutely do. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that I can say anything I want with absolutely no consequences. The Supreme Court has ruled on this. Freedom of speech crosses the line when you stand up in a crowded movie theater and yell fire.
That also doesn’t mean that if I call my boss a jerk, while I’m absolutely “free” to do that, I’m not guaranteed I won’t get fired.
Freedom of speech simply means that I’m not going to be stoned to death or burned in the middle of town square for criticizing the government. That’s freedom of speech. And while I will absolutely defend your right to fly a Confederate flag on your property or on your vehicle, I absolutely defend my right to follow you into the gas station to tell you why you’re an offensive, ignorant, and arrogant illiterate. I often do.
And that’s completely different than flying the clothed emblem of slavery and oppression on public property. Just as you’re free to fly the universal sign for someone who received their “history lesson” off the back of spring break t-shirt in Alvin’s Island in your yard, kids of color should be free to go to school without the symbol of those who went to war to continue owning their ancestors, also.
Being American means many things. It means that while there’s insane money in politics that we need to remove, my vote is also still not for sale. And that no amount of money, no amount of Koch brothers and independent billionaires running for election, can buy the presidency if citizens don’t go into the the voting booth and cast a ballot for them. That is the most precious right of all in the United States. And of course, being an American means patriotism.
But we’ve seen “patriotism” take on irrational forms of late. The party that claims to care about war heroes and drapes themselves continuously in the American flag — as if that is somehow the measure of how much someone loves their nation — now has a nominee for the highest office in the land who insults the mother and father of a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. That’s not what patriotism looks like to me.
That’s not what patriotism and the self-professed party of Christ looks like to the majority of Americans.
No matter how old my grandmother gets, no matter what she forgets, she never forgets to monitor that American flag out in her yard. To see if it’s tattered, to see if it’s torn. And when it is, nothing will stop her until she gets it replaced. This weekend I put up a new one for her, and if you’ve never seen somebody that’s not even 5 foot tall try to take down the American flag, fold it, and put up another one without allowing it to touch the ground — it was almost a YouTube fail-worthy sight. But I did it.
But patriotism also means that while I will not even allow an American flag to touch the ground in honor of men like my grandfather who served in the Navy, the Army and the National Guard, being an American citizen with all its complicated requirements, also means I defend your right to burn it in protest.
Now, I think that you are an ungrateful and disgusting person who’s not worthy of the citizenship of America or the men and women who fight for you if you chose to do so, and if a soldier wanted to go toe-to-toe with you the Walmart parking lot, I think we’d all contribute to his bail, but the freedom of expression in America means you have to allow freedom of expression that you find disgusting so long as it’s not done on any government or public property.
If you want to burn a flag in your yard, as sickening as that is, in America, you cannot subscribe to the demand that the symbol of a free nation be something as small as fabric.
That’s patriotism. That’s honor for the United States Constitution.
Patriotism means that if I don’t agree with gay marriage, I recognize the right that, here in the United States, we are not governed by any religion and that everyone has a right to privileges that I may not approve of, so that I can enjoy the ones that I do. America means so many things to so many people, and underneath that diverse tapestry is a layer that unites us all. And I don’t see any part of that shared unity represented in the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
It’s time to put country over party.
This is an election for the soul of our country. Democrat or Republican, we have to ask ourselves — what kind of nation are we? Is the party of Abraham Lincoln now really the Party of Donald Trump? From Dwight Eisenhower to a man who insults the memory and the family of men like Captain Khan? I know that there are still honorable men and women in the GOP. It’s time to stand up, y’all. You’ve allowed this to go on long enough. We are Americans before we are anything. It’s time to remember that.
Make America Great Again, my foot.
We are and always have been the land of opportunity. Or, as they say, the home of the free because of the brave. Let’s act like it.
And our brave deserve a Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t mock a five year prisoner of war — one who refused his own release unless his fellow POWS could be released with him — for being captured in the first place. While simultaneously having received medical deferments to escape service to his nation for a boo-boo on his foot.
Donald Trump is unworthy of our military’s honor and their sacrifice.
Candi is a lifelong reader, writer, Democrat, and kid keeper. She drinks coffee at midnight and schools Gators fans for fun. Catch her @CandiMathis on Twitter.