Liberal Patriotism in America the Beautiful

A change of pace from my normal trail and campground reviews–because I couldn’t write about those places, if we didn’t have them to write about.

I’ve had a distant relationship with the concept of patriotism for most of my adult life. I was a junior in high school when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and I remember being confused–and honestly disgusted–by the attitudes that I saw following it, that seemed to imply that if you weren’t 100% behind the American government, you were unpatriotic. It just didn’t make sense–our country is built on civil discourse. On seeing injustices and standing up to them, of challenging our government and reminding our elected officials that they answer to the people, not the other way around. Of course we can stand up! The very idea of standing up (or sitting, or kneeling) is, I think, one of the most American–most Patriotic–things you can do. I’ve heard, all too often from far too many people, the idea that you can’t criticize the President. That you don’t have to like him, but you have to respect him–despite the fact that our country is based on fighting for the freedom to disagree with the government.

I spent a lot of my early adulthood wanting to ex-pat, because I very cynically associated America with processed food, war profiteering, and placing corporations over people, and nothing else. And in today’s climate of separating families at the border, mass shootings, and the continued fight for equality that women, minorities, and the lgbt+ community face on a daily basis, identity politics have clouded what it means to be a patriot.

Merriam-Webster defines Patriotism as: “love for or devotion to one’s country.” Not to one’s government.

When I go to the mountains, I feel love for my country.

When I stand on the edge of the ocean, letting my toes sink into the sand and the water splash up to my knees, I feel love for my country.

When I look at pictures of vacations we have taken–to the red rocks of Sedona, the rocky beaches of Maine, the open plains of Texas, I feel love for my country.

Other places have these things, to be sure–but they are other places. We have an incredible landscape right here, that existed long before people did, long before our government did.

You may be wondering–why am I talking about politics here? I’m a business owner, and this page is about my business. But–the older I get, the more I am increasingly confused by how environmentalism can be such a polarizing political view. How public lands should be funded, sure–but having those public lands–having places where we can walk, hike, run, camp, hunt, swim, meditate, climb, fish, bike, whatever? Our very existence as human beings craves connection to nature, and this is coming out more and more as that nature is taken away from us. We are discovering how vitally important it is for children to have outdoor spaces to play in, and looking for ways to bring nature back into urban areas. We have museums dedicated to getting kids and adults alike interested in our natural world–but then as soon as politics enter the conversation, it becomes bi-partisan.

I like to think the environment could be a unifier. That we can all find a way to step back, take our political party out of the equation, and examine our own relationship with nature. Not everyone wants the immersion the way I do, but even the most indoor-dwelling people I know still feel revitalized eating that first meal of the spring outside, and see the benefits of taking their kids to the park and letting them run around for awhile. For as many memes on websites like tumblr as there might be about hating bugs, hating hot weather, hating the brightness of the sun–there are just as many incredible photographs of sunsets, clear blue lakes, mountain peaks that stretch into a sky of endless stars. Whether the people posting ever choose to go there or not, those photographs will disappear if we don’t fight to protect our natural spaces.

I love the geography of my country. I do not always love my government, but I will always love the beauty found within the United States. There are so many places I haven’t seen yet, so many places I want to see, and I consider myself fortunate to have all of these incredible natural wonders in place where I don’t even need a passport to go to.

I know that Independence Day is about celebrating the birth of American Democracy. I also know that we cannot celebrate the birth of this country without also acknowledging the price the Native stewards of our land paid, and are still paying. We are built on blood and tears, and have already stripped away so much of our natural space and killed or isolated the people who know the stories of our mountains, trees, rivers.

But it’s not too late to save what we still have, or to reclaim what has been lost. For our mental health. For our children. For future generations of Americans who should have the same outdoor opportunities that we have, if not more.

So on a day dedicated to the love of our country, I choose to celebrate the land.

 

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