An Independent View on the 4th of July

Celebrating the freedom of constructive criticism.

I was born in the USA, though I hate that song, and that’s a good metaphor for my thinking and feeling about the United States. I was born there, but I emigrated to Europe in 2012 and though I don’t hate the U.S., I find its brash jingoism distasteful, especially when put to music. I have had a much better life here in Europe, and that becomes more the reality as each year passes by.

I wrote about my evolving attitude toward the land of my birth here:

I don’t subscribe to the ideology that America is evil, but I also don’t subscribe to the ideology that America is the greatest country on Earth. As I wrote last Memorial Day, everyone has a reason and the right to be proud of the country of their birth, but there is a fine line between patriotism and jingoism.

The unquestioning attitude of “my country right or wrong” leads to totalitarianism, an ideology of right-wing tyranny that the United States is at danger of falling into.

I am still an American and will always consider myself an American, but I can’t ever see myself wanting to emigrate back. Some people here in Europe buy into the fantasy vision of America …

… a vision unencumbered by any actual experience of America. The person I write of in that article has not experienced the peculiar zeitgeist of the United States, a dualism woven into the fabric of the nation.

Now, yes, some Americans will respond that their country is great because it is the “home of the free.” They probably don’t understand what freedom means; though few people do.

Easy to think one is free if one focuses on only part of the social reality. All countries have that myopia, so I don’t single out the U.S. on that. Still, though Americans live to cite the freedom of speech clause in the Constitution when it serves them, they lack a full understanding of what freedom of speech means.

An excellent use of the freedom of speech is to be willing to speak out that society is not perfect. One should offer constructive criticism — there’s no place for self-serving whining — that seeks to improve society. The United States has many shortcomings and problems, but the biggest one is that its citizens are unwilling to engage in constructive dialogue about them. Oh, there’s plenty of criticism, a constant scrum of partisan finger-pointing between the two main political parties, but little desire for solving problems.

I can’t offer easy solutions because there aren’t any. Improving society and increasing justice takes difficult, continual work. It begins with a clear-eyed view of what’s really good and bad about the U.S., a view that perhaps can only come when one has stepped away from the country and become independent from it. Dropping myopic jingoism can then lead to acceptance of others and opens the door to constructive dialogue.

Deliberative, mutual efforts to better society is a freedom worth fighting for and celebrating.

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