by Rachael on July 4, 2017

The text on the sign I carried during the Women’s March on NYC in January baffled some people. It’s based on the opening of the first of Thomas Paine’s Crisis pamphlets:

These are the times that try men’s [sic] souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

It was a column by Charles Blow, in which he quoted Samuel Adams (“If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experiencd Patriots to prevent its Ruin”), that inspired my wish to embrace the word patriot. It is not a comfortable embrace. What is it that I say I love when I say that I love my country? I wonder sometimes if it’s only the purported ideals of this nation that I love (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”), while its actual people infuriate me.

My fury became clear to me when I understood the reasons for my disappointment in the results of the GA-06 special election. Why do people vote for the candidate who actually says, “I don’t believe in a livable wage”? How exactly do people expect people to live with no livable wage, no affordable health care, no affordable child/elder care, no safety net whatsoever? What kind of democracy is possible when so many in the demos do not actually believe in or care about the unalienable rights of all people?

The Founding Fathers themselves certainly were not faithful to their own grandiose claims — at least not as we understand those ideals today. What good have those ideals nevertheless made possible in this world? And to what violence have those ideals given cover? These are among the questions I ask as I consider this word patriot.

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