I’ve never been the flag waving type. Patriotism, to me, was just one step down the road from nationalism, and my European-Jewish heritage knew enough to be wary of nationalistic tendencies. As we approach the Fourth of July, and more flags seem to be popping up on front porches and street corners, I feel myself filled with customary condescension, complemented with overt disgust at what has been going on in this country since President Donald Trump took office.
How could I possibly wave a flag for this country right now? How could I celebrate the birth of a country that hypocritically praised the lofty ideals of freedom and equality, while at the very same time writing into its holy constitution that Africans were literally three-fifths of a human being? How could I feel pride to live in a land that has seen the Statue of Liberty lay down her golden lamp that once welcomed my White European ancestors, and has replaced the echoing halls of Ellis Island with the heart-rending screams of children separated from their families? I was ready to scoff at any celebrations of American patriotism, to go so far as to disallow my children from enjoying the family cookouts and fireworks. But then, oddly enough, I listened to Tomi Lahren, the right-wing firebrand who has so masterfully carved out a career by screaming vitriol to those who agree with her, rather than engaging with those who do not. I realized that if I were to laugh at, roll my eyes or perhaps demonstrate against America on the Fourth, I would simply be fulfilling Tomi’s pervasive caricature of a leftist who hates America. I won’t give Ms. Lahren the satisfaction.
I will wave a flag on the Fourth, but it sure as hell won’t be out of patriotism for who we are. I will wave a flag for who we could be. I will wave a flag because I love this country enough to know when it’s going down the drain. I will wave a flag in the hopes that we will finally listen to the better angels of our nature, that we embrace that which makes us not just strong, but worthy of strength. America, we are better than who we are right now. The beauty and genius of America is not in its infallibility, but in its ideal that progress isn’t fixed, that there is ever a higher plateau to attain. So I’ll celebrate the Fourth. Not for who we are. But for who we can be.
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...