It’s July 4th week, and, if you’re in the States, you’re probably seeing stars and stripes everywhere: streamers, t-shirts, overpriced throw-pillows. Patriotism is deeply embedded in our national identity, and this time of year has many of us reminiscing about waving miniature American flags, gazing up at fireworks (okay, maybe wincing a little, too), and chowing down on blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream carefully arranged to approximate the American flag (albeit almost always with fewer than fifty blueberries—one can only wonder which states our childhood selves expelled from the union).
In adulthood, patriotism has grown more complicated; we understand, now, the sins and sicknesses of our country. In many ways, the very concept of patriotism seems to have been co-opted, the feeling of gratitude for one’s country twisted into a partisan badge. The current administration would have us believe that to be patriotic these days, you must fear immigrants and refugees, say whatever you want without considering the feelings of “special snowflakes,” and, well, wholly support our current president.
In the wake of Trump’s despicable tweets last week about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Kellyanne Conway went so far as to blast the media for their lack of patriotism, calling their coverage of Donald Trump “neither productive nor patriotic.” When did the reporting of facts by the press—whose freedom our constitution guarantees—become “unpatriotic”? Around the time, perhaps, that it became acceptable for the president to post a meme of himself physically attacking CNN? Or perhaps it was when the NRA released this video inciting viewers to use their right to bear arms to fight against those “horrid” folks who, you know, exercise other rights the constitution guarantees—to assemble, to protest, to speak out against injustice.
In reality, by contacting our Congressmen, by attending protests, by calling out bigotry and sexism and religious intolerance—we are being patriotic. We wouldn’t do these things if we didn’t love our country and genuinely want it to be its best self. As American clergyman and peace-activist William Sloane Coffin, Jr. wrote, “There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country…” This Fourth of July, commit to being a good patriot who keeps that lover’s quarrel well and thriving. Here are some are tips to get you started.
1. First and foremost, celebrate and advocate for your first-amendment rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
- Remind the NRA that the freedom to peacefully assemble is part of the Bill of Rights. (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience): Write: NRA, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030 (or call 800-672-3888). Script: “The right to bear arms is a guaranteed constitutional right, as is the freedom to peacefully assemble. I oppose the new ad implying that peaceful marches and progressive ideas are anti-American. (If you are an NRA member, please mention this.) Americans are our neighbors, not enemies. I look forward to donating to an anti-gun organization this week in the NRA’s name.”
- Join lawmakers and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in publicly condemning Trump’s attacks on the press. Attend or create a local People Power event to show that we will not allow our president to infringe upon our first-amendment rights. Check the Resistance Calendar for protests, parades, and other resistance events happening in your area.
- Make sure you are informed about the ongoing threats to free expression. Sign up for Pen America’s DARE, Daily Alert on Rights and Expression.
2. Stand up for the right to vote.
- (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience): Action: Advocate for transparency and the right to vote. Call: Your governor’s office (look up) and Secretary of State (look up). Script: “Hi. I’m a constituent from [ZIP] calling to express my concern about the federal election integrity commission. Vice Chair Kobach’s history of voter suppression makes recent letters requesting citizen data deeply concerning. Don’t let him steal our votes. Please join with other states and refuse to comply with this invasive request.”
- Sign up for updates from Rock the Vote to stay informed about the ways in which voting rights are being attacked and what you can do to protect this foundational right of our democracy.
3. Protect the health of our citizens.
- Check out the Indivisible July Fourth Recess Guide, a resource with scripts, suggested actions, and other great tools to help you fight TrumpCare right now. “This July Fourth recess, we celebrate our freedom. And we stand up for a fundamental truth: health is a human right,” the guide begins.
- Attend the public appearances (town halls, barbecues, parades, etc.) of your Members of Congress (look up) during this July 4th Recess, and talk to them about the healthcare bill.
- Thank your Democratic Senators who have committed to voting against the bill and ask them to stay committed. Indivisible’s Script: “Republicans are dead-set on passing their TrumpCare bill. I’m glad that you oppose the bill, but I expect you to do more. Will you continue to ‘withhold consent’ and shutdown the Senate until and unless Republicans abandon their repeal efforts? Will you also promise to ‘filibuster-by-amendment’ if the bill comes to floor?”
- Explain to Republican Senators (both those who are on the fence about the bill and those who support it) why it would harm you, your community, and our country. Indivisible’s Script: “The Senate’s TrumpCare bill and is even worse than the House version. The CBO says 22 million people will lose their health insurance through this bill. This is unacceptable. Your job is to protect the interests of your constituents. I am one of those constituents, and I demand that you vote against this bill. Will you promise me that you (choose the issue most important to you) …won’t vote for a bill that would lead to millions of Americans losing their health coverage? …won’t vote for a bill that makes cuts to Medicaid? …won’t vote for a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood?”
- Not sure when and where your Members of Congress will be hosting a Town Hall? The Town Hall Project has you covered.
- If your Members of Congress aren’t hosting a Town Hall, try showing up at their office hours instead.
- Sign this petition to add 6 more women to the Senate health care working group: “Women are 51% of the United States. There are 14 men and 1 woman on the working group that is drafting the Senate bill on health care. We demand equal representation for this bill. Add 6 women to the health care working group permanently and remove 7 men.”
4. Spend your time, money, and screen-time well.
- Download Stance, an App that makes contacting your elected representatives quick and easy. And soon you will be able to access Jen Hoffman’s weekly recommended actions for Americans of Conscience from inside the app!
- Download the Nudge for Change App, which “will alert you if you’re about to spend your hard-earned cash in a way that doesn’t align with your core values, and nudge you toward nearby alternatives you can feel good about supporting. It’s like having a backup for your moral compass on your phone.”
5. Take care of yourself, so that you can take of others.
If you have the day off tomorrow, engage in activities that feed your soul—and share time with the people for whom you want to make this country better. If you need some reassurance that resistance is patriotism, start here:
- Frida Berrigan’s “A New Patriotism” in The Nation. An excerpt: “September 11th was a long time ago. But I finally fell in love with my country in the days following that awful attack. I saw for the first time a certain strain of patriotism that swept me away, a strain that says we are stronger together than alone, stronger than any blow that strikes us, stronger in our differences, stronger in our unities.”
- Jesse Berney’s “Is Patriotism Possible in Trump’s America?” in Rolling Stone. An excerpt: “Our Union is far from perfect – no human institution ever will be. Millions of Americans face injustice every day because they’re black or brown or women or gay or poor or for countless other reasons. But America is better than it was in 1776, and that progress is worth celebrating.”
- Neil Young’s new song, “The Children of Destiny.” He sings, “Stand up for what you believe / Resist the powers that be / Preserve the ways of democracy so the children can be free.”