Friday, July 4, 2008

PWB - Patriotism While Black

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

On this day, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of these United States, we are still faced with questions about whether some people are as "patriotic" as others. Defined as "love, or devotion to one's country", an affirmation of patriotism is often seen as the test for whether you are a true American. In my opinion, this test is too frequently applied to Black Americans. Even the term African American is sometimes approached with disdain by people who think we should all be just American.

Now, we see people questioning Barack Obama (because he didn't wear a flag pin, or because of his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright), and Michelle Obama (because she claimed pride at the unprecedented possibility that her husband, a Black man, could be President of the United States, and that White Americans would vote for him.)

This is a sore point for us. My father served admirably in a segregated U.S. Army during World War II. I dutifully registered for the draft when it was my turn. And even though I did not personally serve, I have many family members who did. I wouldn't trade my citizenship for another. This doesn't mean that I agree totally with all of the policies of this country.
Blind support for the actions of the incumbent administration is not equivalent to patriotism in my book.

I lived through the Civil Rights Era, the turbulent Sixties, the Vietnam war, Watergate and Iran-Contra. I detested many of the things done by my government during these times, but I'm still proud to be an American. If I question these things, am I not being patriotic? This does not even take into account the sordid history of this country that embraced slavery, and the Constitution that designated Black Americans as only 3/5 of a man for apportionment of representation. So if I question our motives in the Iraq war, am I not patriotic? Many times, I hear a constant refrain that we should just support our troops. But support for the troops is not the same as support for the government that put us there in the first place. In fact, I feel it is our civic duty to express our feelings about the actions of our representatives in government.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So stop questioning our patriotism, we are all Americans. Good or bad, right or wrong, fervent or passive. Each has just as much right to be here as the other. If you take to heart the phrase, "all men are created equal, you can accept that.