Saturday, April 26, 2014
April 26-27, 2014: How Would a Patriot Act?: You
[To follow up Monday’s Patriot’s Day post, I stole a phrase from Glenn Greenwald’s great book and briefly highlighted five genuinely and impressively patriotic past Americans, one per post-contact century. This post adds you to the mix—so add your nominees in comments, please!]
This weekend’s genuinely patriotic American is you.
The problem with what I called (in Monday’s post) the “easy” version of American patriotism, the version that asks us to pledge allegiance, stand for the anthem, say “God Bless America” at the drop of a hat, and so on, is not that everybody can do it. The problem, as I see it, is that everybody can do it without much effort at all (other than the rote performance of those kinds of rituals), and certainly without thinking or critical engagement with complex questions and narratives, with defining debates over our ideals and our realities. The problem, in short, is that it’s easy—and, to quote from one of my favorite moments in American literature (a line from the culminating section of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony ), “The only thing is: it has never been easy.”
So this is where you come in—you American Studiers, whoever and wherever you are. If I could highlight one ongoing goal for my work on this site, I’d say the same thing that I’d say for my published writing and works in progress, for my year of book talks, for my work with students, for my work in the Adult Learning classes I’ve had the chance to teach, for everything I do these days as a professional and public scholar: to help people engage more fully, with more complexity, with our American histories and stories, our national identity and community. While of course I have my own ideas and arguments about those topics, at the end of the day I promise that I’m not trying to get everybody to buy into them—I can’t imagine a better America, in fact, than one in which we can all debate these questions, from positions of knowledge and engagement, of passion and empathy, of civic responsibility and personal stakes.
My guess, without knowing many of you personally yet (and again—introduce yourselves, please!), is that we’re all on the same page here. So the next step is to extend these efforts, to share these goals and ideals with more and more of our fellow Americans (and American Studiers everywhere). Am I asking you to send your friends and loved ones to this blog?? Maybe a bit. But mostly I’m just asking you to have these conversations, to do this work, in your ways and communities with your own voice, that is and will continue to be so crucial to our American future. I know it won’t be easy—it never has been—but I can’t imagine anything more important, nor more patriotic.
Next series starts Monday,
BenPS. Any thoughts? Any other patriotic Americans you’d nominate?