Since I became a father in 2005, my priorities have shifted. Where once I was politically neutral or slightly to the left of center, I now find that my every thought and nearly every action is a product of parenthood.
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I love America.
My politics are progressive.
That wasn’t always the case. I’ve found that since I became a father in 2005, my priorities have shifted. Where once I was politically neutral or slightly to the left of center, I now find that my every thought and nearly every action is a product of parenthood.
I am progressive because I am a father, and I want my sons to grow up in a better world. I want to do all I can to help make that happen. That’s why I write. It’s what I do instead of running for office or phone banking or raising thousands of dollars for my preferred progressive candidates.
I want my sons to know I care about their future. I want them to know I love them.
When it comes to politics that means I lean toward compassion. I see very little on the right that passes for compassion, unfortunately.
For all its ugly past (and present), for all its uncertainty and inequality, I love America.
Now, based on some things I’ve read on social media, seen on TV and heard on the radio, that statement might come as a bit of a surprise to those of you on the political right.
I mean, I don’t even have a photo of an American flag on my Twitter page. How can you say you love America if you don’t have American flags and bald eagles on your Twitter and Facebook pages? (Not to mention skulls; what’s the deal with all the skulls, anyway?).
You also hear a lot of chants of “USA! USA! USA!” at conservative political rallies. Sometimes, those chants arise at odd moments, like when protesters who have exercised their First Amendment rights are marched out by police or hired security. What does that even mean? The protesters are, somehow, less American?
It seems to me some conservatives believe they have a monopoly on patriotism.
They do not.
I love American flags, bald eagles and USA chants.
I am a progressive-minded patriot.
In fact, I submit that in many cases, the popular version of “patriotism” espoused by some on the right is a bundle of nationalist talking points built on a combination of otherwise disparate interests: gate keepers of big business, like the Koch brothers; blatant racists, like David Duke; zealots from the evangelical right, like Pat Robertson.
They are defenders of the hierarchy, united against the tectonic but inevitable demographic shift of electoral power into the hands of people who are not white men.
They are afraid.
I am not afraid.
I love America.
Free to debate; free to think
I love that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick can take a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in protest of the systemic racism that has cost so many black Americans their lives and robbed so many others of their right to feel secure.
I love that I can support Kaepernick and loath the systemic racism in our country while also applauding the mission of police to protect and serve our society.
I love that I can own and openly express seemingly contradictory opinions like these. Americans are nothing if not contradictory.
I love that one of the many great things about America is inherent optimism, a belief that the problems that plague our culture have solutions, and that we can find them together.
I love America.
I love that I can walk into our local grocery store on a Sunday afternoon and fill a cart with things like Pop Tarts, three kinds of sliced bread, fresh fruit and veggies and canned corn.
I love that I can share that grocery store with people who will never think like I do – people who will eagerly cast a vote for a presidential candidate I find deplorable – and we just smile and nod as we pass one another on the soup aisle.
I love civility in the face of bitter disagreement. That’s American, too.
I love that we are free to debate, that I am free to think as I like, write what I like, say what I like.
I love that when I see a huge Confederate battle flag high atop a giant pole near the highway on my commute to and from work I am free to question the motives of those who choose to fly that flag. I also love that they are free to do it, even though I believe it is brutally insensitive to those who consider that flag a symbol of division and worse.
I’ve been places; I love them all
I love so much about this country. I have wandered many of its grand cities, become immersed in the local cultures of big places like Seattle, New York, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, Boston and on and on.
I have eaten their food and breathed their air.
I have lived in small, quiet places: Sebring, Kinston, Gainesville. I love them, too.
I’ve been places.
I walked in awe alone on a winter day across the Northern Virginia battleground of Manassas. I stood by myself in Monument Park at old Yankee Stadium and communed with the ghosts of Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio. I walked the sixth floor at the old Texas School Book Depository and peered out the window into Dealey Plaza below. I stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and held my breath for what seemed like hours. I stumbled along every inch of the Las Vegas strip, and watched many a glorious sunset over Cape Cod Bay. I wept at Ground Zero in New York, and I shuffled my feet to sweet jazz and blues at Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
I have seen all of these things and places and so many more, and I love them all.
Nothing more powerful than compassion
I believe in quiet strength and practical solutions. I believe that sacrifice, the kind made by good cops, educators, parents and U.S. service men and women, should be acknowledged gratefully.
I believe there is nothing more powerful on Earth than compassion.
I believe there is good in the world, and I believe that it is reflected by the best of America.
I love that.
And in spite of the ills of our nation, despite the inequality and misunderstandings, despite the awful things we see and hear and read in the news and on social media, I am optimistic.
I believe that collective compassion and – yes – intelligence will see us through. I believe the problems can be solved. I believe we will leave a better country, a better world, for our kids.
I believe we all are stronger together.
I am a father who loves his sons. I love that their future is full of promise.
I am an American.
I am a patriot.
My politics are progressive.
And I love America.