For all the avowed patriots who demand my Pledge of Allegiance and salutes on Loyalty Day, Fourth of July, and other patriotic, militarized holidays, I fling this question to your hearts: how deep and far does your loyalty to your country run?
We applaud those who risk their lives in battlefields, allegedly defending our country in wars that we later understand to be for the profits of privileged elites. Yet, too many disdain the homeless man – your fellow citizen – in the street; our loyalty to our country appears to stop there. Our national celebrations of loyalty and service are charades. They demand loyalty of all citizens by demonstrating our loyalty to our military and politicians. But where is the loyalty to our fellow citizens who are suffering? When do we honor that?
What is love of one’s country if not a love that extends beyond ideals and platitudes to weep over the injustices and harms experienced within our nation? Is it love to stay silent when remediable suffering abounds? Is it devotion to allow the children of our nation to lack potable drinking water while billions are spent on more weaponry?
My love – and loyalty to – my country is not a set of slogans, lofty skyscrapers, or staggering amasses of wealth. No, my love of my country is courageous enough to include the broken and hurting places; the weeping rivers contaminated with coal sludge; the infants who die early from fracking contaminants; the veterans wracked unto suicide with the horrors they’ve experienced; the poor thrown out of homes, onto the streets, driven out of towns to die in the margins. My country is large enough to include every inch of our lands with an unflinching gaze, seeing the prosperous and plighted, greedy and generous, alike.
My loyalty resides in tending to the least of us, the most abused and broken-hearted, the marginalized, and the forgotten. A country is not a standard of measurement by which some are damned and excluded, and others are accepted and exalted. A nation is a promise, a commitment to all those born on its soil and all those who join later in life, that we will bear a tender responsibility to one another, that we will care for one another, that we will help one another through life. Our nation fails, again and again, to live up to this. My heart aches for this failing, as well. That is what loyalty does: it holds up our potential and calls us back to it unceasingly no matter how much we err.
My love of my country cannot be symbolized by flags and parades and uniforms and speeches, for it extends far beyond the confines of humanity. Every stream, lake, ocean shore, forest, field, mountain; the bears, eagles, moose, wolves, coyotes, foxes, whales, dolphins, salmon, catfish, lobster, rabbit, mouse, ant, centipede; every beast and being of this land demands our loyalty as well.
And when I am slapped with the demand for patriotic loyalty and unquestioning obedience to authorities, I turn my other cheek and ask: where then is our loyalty to democracy? That which questions, critiques, dissents? Where is our loyalty to the rest of our people, the ones who suffer in our streets? Where is our loyalty to our land and waters, that which builds the very firmament of our being?
Do not throw this shallow loyalty of puppets and politicians at me! It reeks of greed and hypocrisy. It smacks of coercion and deception. It stinks of lies and manipulation.
My loyalty runs as deep as the oceans, wide as the great vast sky that stretches across our country. It refuses to look away from the suffering of any inch of our nation: human, animal, plant, mineral, elemental. It stands at the sickbed of those without healthcare. It bears witness to the people shot in the streets. It remembers the hidden millions in prisons. It starkly sees the cruelties of moguls, magnates, and tycoons. It aches as the waters of this nation are poisoned. It weeps as the great mountains are blasted to bits.
A loyalty un-blinded rages at the injustices of this country; it holds the feet of power holders to the fire of truth; it dares to critique, to dissent, to speak out… indeed, it does not dare be silent.
When someone you love is in danger, or causes injustice and great harm to others, your loyalty demands that you act to dissuade them from the path that they’re on, and return them to sanity, awareness and compassion.
That is my loyalty to my country, that I will speak out against our wrongdoings and cruelties; that I will dissent from the demand for unquestioned obedience to authority; that I will love my country so ferociously that I will not allow us to remain complacent, nor deluded by the addiction to power and control; that I must speak for the other species that share our geography; and that I will include, unflinchingly, the face of every human being who lives here in my definition of my country. Such is my loyalty. Such is my love.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequels, The Roots of Resistance, Winds of Change, and Rise and Resist – Essays on Love, Courage, Politics and Resistance and other books, including a study guide to making change with nonviolent action. Website: https://www.riverasun.com.
The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequels, The Roots of Resistance, and Winds of Change. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here.
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