You toil down the big blank highway past Richmond. If you're lucky, or smart, or had the time, you exchanged a few miles on US 29 north of Danville, and caught the slow swell of those hills in Virginia's most gorgeous country. But eventually you sidled up to Interstate 95 like a meeting with your ex ("No, that's my postal service CD"). The monotony is broken as you approach the river, and there's the Washington Monument peeking over the low skyline like the nephew who gleefully spoils the surprise party seconds early. And you think, 'well that's nice'. But for me, it's as you quickly take it all in; there's the Jefferson lit up like democracy's front porch and you're invited for tea.
I find it stirring, I really do. It makes me proud, that drive. It's easy, in these lean days, to get bitter. to get just mad. but we have to remember that we are participants in the greatest social experiment ever. Our country, let's face it, was formed by some pretty snobby intellectual-superior types. This excites me! Our ideals are peerless, here in the Republic.
But let me be real, and possibly get myself in trouble. Hang around for the ending, you'll get off my back.
'Patriotism' really is a bad word to me. I hate it. Still with me? Good. I am going somewhere with this. The ideals behind the word are beyond admirable. But I'd liken patriotism as it's understood today to any vulgar sex euphemism. let's go with 'screw' as it's not exactly mild, but not beyond the pale. "Screw" is a dirty word used to to describe a gorgeous act. Patriotism encompasses something wonderful but i think it's come to include a kind of uncomfortable nationalism, as well. A strong love of country, a jealous defense of it even, is a trait every citizen should posses. But temper it with the knowledge- and acceptance- that we all live in a global community, and have a responsibility to that community. My country is like all of my loved ones. severely maladjusted, but precious to me nonetheless. I absolutely love the foundation our government rests on, and deeply believe that government can make people's lives better, but its done so in fits and starts for, what, a century now?
I don't recall what street it's on, but not far from the National Mall is a church with a neon sign across the front: "A Monument to Jesus" it reads. A reminder that even this close to the seat of government, Americans are cynical regarding their leaders. I love it. It brings me down from the poetic heights inspired by the Memorials, but reminds me that the people on this endeavor beside me are kooks.
Amidst all of the idealism, we're grounded in doubt and pragmatism. I applaud this, I do, but who's up for reconnecting with those ideals? there's a Jeep commercial circulating right now that gets me every time: "this was once a country where people made things, beautiful things. and so it is again."
To some, the following will be seen as critical, but it's an expression of deep, deep love: My country is so heavy with unrealized potential, and I want to see it unleashed.