Berger’s Burg

By Alex Berger

There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of men, women and mind are nothing but a dream. They are right. It is a dream. It is the American dream. — Archibald MacLeish.

America's 232nd birthday is tomorrow. Some Americans will celebrate it, but many will not. We have stripped our patriotic holidays of their patriotism.

We do not celebrate Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays on their birthdays, nor Memorial Day on May 30. These holidays have become three-day weekends so people can watch TV, shop or make quick getaways. July Fourth is no exception.

Because patriotism is subjective, it is impossible to say whether its concept has been downgraded. We cannot measure it by opinion polls. Most take patriotism for granted, treating it casually and contemptuously, as if it were not needed when it is.

At its best, it creates a sense of belonging which binds us together. In moments of great peril it inspires Americans to give their lives defending their country and its ideals. Many Americans forgot their country's history, destroying its importance and power.

Emphasis on individual rights, opportunity and economic gain has always been at odds with patriotism. What is incontestable is that patriotism no longer seems worth worrying about and Americans consider it irrelevant to today's problems. They are wrong.

Patriotism should flourish when the nation is threatened — like today, when terrorism is real and real and imagined differences pull us apart. The politics of group identity (race, sex, ethnicity) live on differences. Longtime citizens and newly arrived immigrants, pulled between their native countries and adopted homeland, need a common, uniting thread. Patriotism provides the counterweight — a larger loyalty — to these divisions.

Terrorists vow to kill any American. But what is an “American”? To help the terrorists pick one out, an Australian defined the word American”:

“An American is English or French or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian or Arab or Pakistani or Afghan. An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Seminole, Sioux or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans.

“An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses (not to the government or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God). And an American is also free to believe in no religion.

“An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. An American is generous. Americans have helped just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Americans have given more to more nations in need than any other nation… ever.

“Americans welcome the best of everything… the best products, the best books, the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least. (Check out the number of persons who want to become American citizens.)

“The national symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty, welcomes 'your tired, your poor…/the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…/the homeless, tempest-tost….' These, in fact, are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, earning a better living for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures and first languages, including those who aided and abetted the terrorists.

“So you can try to kill an American if you must…. But in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.”

Now terrorists know who to shoot when they see an American.

Americans, remember July Fourth and what it stands for — not just on this one day, but every day.

Nowhere in the world is there presented a government of so much liberty and equality. — Abraham Lincoln.

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