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Patriotism in 2024

Posted on July 4, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

Things are pretty crazy in America right now. Talk of civil war is bubbling up on the internet, the upcoming election feels daunting, and democracy itself seems to be fraying not only at the edges but squarely at the middle. Congress, particularly the House of Representatives but increasingly the Senate, displays a particularly unpleasant nastiness and political fever. To top it off, the Supreme Court majority, rather than adjudicating cases, has launched its own political and social agenda.

It’s not just the United States where nativist populism has erupted. The European Union is also riven with dissent, and signs point to a period of global upheaval and strife. For whatever reason, a disturbing cycle of change is upon us, one far more complicated than the past Cold War where sides were clear and obvious.

Within America, Red States and Blue States are so divided on policies that they seem like different countries. Women in states that have outlawed abortion are traveling to other states where abortion is legal. Voting registration, voting districts, polling places and voter rolls are being manipulated to affect elections. The likely Presidential candidate of the Republican Party is explicitly announcing his intention to punish those who have opposed him should he be elected and refuses to promise to honor the election outcome if he loses. Could it be any crazier right now?

Here in Sonoma Valley, it’s not as crazy, thank goodness. While there are those who enjoy stirring things up with heated rhetoric and rants, for the most part people here treat each other decently. While some public meetings get noisy and disruptive, they are relatively few and far between and by and large our leaders can get down to business and take care of what needs to be done. In the current overheated political atmosphere, just being decent feels patriotic.

On July 4, we celebrate freedom in America. While not perfect, and in some ways terribly imperfect, freedom in America is nonetheless worth celebrating. The past two hundred and fifty years is a history of the progress of emancipation, the freeing of people to live lives of their own choosing. What began as freedom only for white men owning property was extended to freedom for men of all races, then women, the disabled, and LGBTQ+. Freedom is not a zero-sum game where granting it to some people requires denying it to others.

Adjusting to new social realities takes patience and understanding. The patriotism of 2024 includes tolerance; being tolerant of others and the choices they make helps all of us be freer, not less. Cultural change is happening more quickly than ever, partly because technology is progressing faster; all of us may find ourselves challenged by adjusting, but adjust we must. Either that, or our society risks slipping backwards towards intolerance, bigotry and prejudice and the emancipatory gains of the twentieth century will be lost.

We used to speak easily of patriotic duty: voting, military service, public office; these all used to qualify. Today they still do, but added to them are courageous and necessary qualities of mind and heart: decency, kindness, patience and tolerance, all ingredients that help create a good society.

Freedom requires more than celebration; like its other responsibilities, it takes effort. Unless we honor and show respect for the freedom of others and their choices, as uncomfortable as it sometimes makes us, we threaten to weaken our own.



One thought on “Patriotism in 2024

  1. In the spirit of blind men feeling the elephant… here’s one take, granted this is a complex, multi-layered topic. Current right-wing populist trends are gaining vigor because there is a valid observation that top 10% elites (of all flavors) have indeed unfairly dominated. Government, business, and their beneficiary cohorts have run off with all the goods and power, leaving the real little guys (essential workers and renters) with a lot less gravy and a lot less say.

    Sonoma Valley is a classic case of elites dominating, in a nominally blue area. Yet despite a blue tint, the gravy stays at the top. This is a fractal for why Trump will win: there’s a huge blind spot in the US center-left that fails to come to grips with a fundamental alienation of essential workers. Why? Hoarding opportunities and failure to share the gravy. What should be a main, glaring local issue, equity, as seen by clear local demographic indicators and many local studies, is set aside in favor of other issues that focus on and favor landed class and green interests.

    I can sympathize with this editorial’s hope that somehow we can all just get along. That would be good. Patriotism however, hinges on an assumption that we are all on the same team and that we share values and team advantages. IMHO what we need to see in Sonoma Valley is a more concerted effort from local blue elites to share the goods and power. Comity and decorum only gets the disadvantaged so far before they realize they are not being heard, are not on the same team, and not much is changing anyway.

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