"With Liberty and Justice for All"
Today is Independence Day in America- the day on which Americans celebrate the nation's birth. So I am reflecting on "patriotism" and wondering how "patriotic" I can or should be as I walk my spiritual path.
The word "patriot" has been revived over the past few years. It originally referred to the citizens of those original 13 colonies who fought for American Independence and established the principles upon which this country was built back in 1776. More recently the term has been appropriated by conservative talk-show hosts and is widely used in FOX news reports to refer to the "real" Americans who are vigorously devoted to preserving this country's integrity.
"Patriots" devote themselves to preserving America's integrity by doing what they can to keep the country "pure." For them "pure" means "White" and "English only." Foreigners are viewed as potential terrorists, Muslims are dangerous, and for some "Patriots," even synagogues are suspect.
Other "Patriots" surround buses full of teary-eyed, frightened, immigrant children from Central America. They wave American flags and angrily shake their fists yelling "Go Home,"along with chants of "USA!" They fear these children from a foreign land might possibly introduce communicable diseases to their pretty little town. More than that, these "Patriots" have worked hard for what they have achieved in their lives and are totally unwilling to let interlopers have a piece of their pie.
Many other "Patriots" wrap themselves in a flag and stand beneath a cross claiming that we need to get "God" back into this country, return to those "Christian" principles upon which we were formed - stem the tide of immorality, stop same-sex marriage, return prayer to schools.
As I walk my spiritual path, I am not nor do I ever wish to be this kind of so-called "Patriot."
Yet I am all in favor of vigorously supporting my country and I am more than eager to stand upon the foundation on which this nation was established. In fact, every time I "Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," I am reminded of exactly what this nation stands for:
Liberty and Justice for ALL!
I think about the millions of foreigners and immigrants who, over the generations first glimpsed these shores as they passed that statue of Lady Liberty in the New York harbor. She holds up the flame of "liberty and justice for all," and with open arms proclaims, "Give me your tired and your poor."
So I think I am most patriotic and genuinely "American" when I, like Lady Liberty, open my heart and my life and my resources to welcome immigrants and foreigners. I am most patriotic when, instead of thinking of poor people as lazy, I see them as deserving of respect and do whatever I can to help them live a life of dignity.
I also want to keep America "pure," but the way to do that is to encourage and foster diversity, because diversity is the "pure" foundation upon which this country was established. I am most patriotic and genuinely American when I can enjoy and participate in the richness of our many languages, cultures, heritages, religions, beliefs and ideologies, all so wonderfully woven together into the fabric of this land.
And while I don't at all believe that "religious" folks are somehow more "American," in some ways I think it would be a great idea to stand upon the "Judeo-Chrstian" principles at the core of our foundation. After all, it was Jesus who called his followers to lead lives of unabashed compassion and no-holds barred hospitality. It was Jesus who taught his disciples to lift up the poor and reach out to those who are on the margins of life so that everyone would have a place of equal dignity at life's table- no foreigners, no strangers, no one on the outside looking in.
My spiritual journey calls me to this kind of patriotism, and on this Independence Day I proudly stand up and renew my commitment to:
Liberty and Justice for ALL!