Family and friends and a minor-league baseball game with hotdogs and peanuts and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
I guess three years in a row makes it a tradition.
It’s always fun. And it always leaves me feeling a little . . . disjointed.
I struggle so hard with patriotism. And it’s difficult to even think about that, much less talk about it. Or write about it. (In fact, as I write this, I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to post it.)
I struggle with Patriotism almost exactly the way I struggle with Christianity.
I was raised here. I was born into it. My parents are Americans (and Christians.) My dead mother was especially patriotic (and Christian.) I should believe.
I should feel that swelling in my heart-region when the music starts.
But I know the terrible things that are there. And I don’t know how to not know. I don’t know how to know and believe anyway.
I don’t know how to not equate Christianity with my aunt telling me ten minutes before my mother died that if I didn’t go into her hospice room and tell her that I’d accepted Jesus as my savior and let her sister die knowing I’d go to heaven, I would go to hell.
I don’t know how to shut out all of the things I learned on my way to a minor in American History. I don’t know how to know those things and still be proud.
I also don’t know how to be the recipient of most all of the privileges that come with being a white, middle-class, straight, at least nominally Christian, American and still struggle with pride.
So I grapple with figuring out how to cobble together my own way of believing. Maybe America is like one of my children — who I love unconditionally and would love under any circumstances.
I would try to understand. I would. I wouldn’t condone that kind of behavior, I would even hate it, but my love would remain unconditional.
Just like there is a part of me that desperately wants to be able to truly believe that Jesus Loves Me. The same part wants to feel a swell of pride when the National Anthem kicks up.
I want to believe that being American is something to be proud of.
I don’t know. Maybe patriotism isn’t important. Maybe it isn’t even healthy. Believing that one country is more important or greater or more worthy than another is how we end up with a country with 5 percent of the world’s population using 25 percent of the world’s resources and creating 50 percent of the world’s solid waste.
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I love my children unconditionally and would love them even if they did something terrible. I would love them even if they did things that made it so that I could not be fiercely proud of them.
I would believe in their capacity for redemption.
That is what unconditional love is.
A country that produced Mark Twain and Georgia O’Keeffe and Thomas Edison and Martin Luther King, Jr has the capacity for redemption. And every time I turn on the National News, I see that capacity stretching and yearning to be free. I see it in the outrage. I feel it in my own outrage.
I also see it in the compassion. And the obvious desire to be better, even if we’re in the midst of the step-back portion of the old adage about two steps forward, one step back.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.