My patriotism is of the quiet, "thank goodness I didn't move to country X when I was love-addled in my 20s" type. I'm not much for parades, normally. But I have a two-year old, who adores music, drums, dancing, sparkly things and flags. And who smiles so cutely he oughta be in pictures.
All of this adds up to a date tomorrow morning with the local 4th of July parade -- which will, admittedly, have some kind of "Mad Hot Peace" float in addition to the more traditional offerings. But I have been thinking about reasons to look forward to the parade this year, and I have come up with several.
1. Resurgence of patriotism that is filled with uplift, rather than rage. I cried through the trailer for the Oliver Stone 9-11 movie World Trade Center last weekend. Then I read this article about it and cried some more. Although I suppose one should withhold judgment until it's out, it appears to be a positive, uplifting story about Americans coming to the aid of other Americans -- about people finding personal and national redemption in themselves and their fellow Americans on a dark, dark day. The suburban accountant who went home, put on his Marines uniform, drove to Ground Zero and walked through the rubble calling out "US Marines" and was heard by survivors. A lapsed paramedic who dug through rubble looking for some kind of personal redemption, and found another survivor. Both true stories, apparently. It's time to hear more about those better angels of our American-ness, and not just the horrors unleashed by war and unclear mandates in Iraq and unfocused fear at home. Not because we shouldn't hear about the bad stuff, b ut because we need to remember that we're capable of better.
2. A good parade encourages the above. Two weeks ago we got stuck in a parade in Cedar City, Utah -- a pretty small place that had shut down entirely for the occasion. What occasion? Their local National Guard, the 222nd, was home after 18 months in Iraq -- six months longer than planned -- without losing a single person. The unit before them had suffered quite a few fatalities, and all the surrounding communities were ready to celebrate. People left stores and restaurants untended to go cheer as the Guard marched by, with a band and fire trucks and a three-story-high flag.
I thought of this again the next week, when the US Congressman from that part of Utah -- apparently one of the most conservative in Congress -- survived a primary challenge from the right on immigration. Apparently the incumbent had done sinister things like accept an award from an immigrant rights group. "Racism and xenophobia are not Republican virtues," he said. But, as I say, he won handily. Would I dare suggest a connection? No. A good thing for our common humanity? Yes.
3. It's about community. I've been trying for months now to practice what I preach and not use my bloggy pulpit to rant about divisions in the progressive community, and progressives who seem to devote their full and impressive energies to enlarging those divisions. But it's getting me down. So hear this: I am one web-literate progressive who does not care what the New Republic thinks of Daily Kos, and vice versa. I do not care why Madeleine Albright wrote a book about religion now, and not five, ten or fifty years ago. And I really don't care very much which sect of true believers on the way ahead in Iraq you belong to.
I care whether you have good, interesting, challenging ideas, and whether you are capable of publicizing them in a way that moves our community -- and perhaps our nation -- forward and up instead of bogging us down.
So I'm going to the parade with a two-year old's sense of glee at the noise and the sparkle, and something else besides: the knowledge that the family next to us may think that tapping our phones is just great and Jesus talks to President Bush every day. Or they may think I'm a ghastly right-winger because I go to church and worked for Bill Clinton and once wrote something nice about Peggy Noonan. But you know what? As long as we're standing there with our flags, that won't matter. They're not going to hurt me, and I'm not going to hurt them.
And that's part of what makes America great, when we are great. The words to "America the Beautiful" get most of the rest of it. Have a happy 4th.