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An Immigrant's July 4th

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Even though I immigrated to America three decades ago, when most Americans look at me and hear my accent they can't believe I could be a patriotic American. That I have been quite critical of much that America has done including the war in Iraq; racism in our healthcare system; and racism, with its million manifestations, in America's daily life have angered many who know of me. But beneath the critique of my adopted home, many would be surprised to learn I love America unreservedly and consider myself patriotic. These thoughts come to me on a day when giant flags wave in the wind near my home; when many swirl beer, eat hot dogs waiting for the fireworks. And for many patriotism is reduced to flags, fireworks and FOX News -- that seems to have cornered the patriotism market.

Socrates believed and taught that patriotism required we promote dissenting ideas. His reward was to be dragged through a trial and eventual suicide. Socratic debates cannot be performed on CNN or on the O'Reilly show on Fox. TV Discussions are simplified to wearing flag lapel pins; and placing hands on hearts as the national anthem is sang. That the American media spend so little time debunking some of the nonsensical stereotypes and statements of what it means to be a patriot is a travesty. Were the media to take up the job of educating America they would be true patriots.

I'm puzzled by the shouting matches about patriotism on Fox News; the public spectacles about who is more patriotic -- John McCain or Obama. Are Democrats more patriotic than Republicans? How can some Church pretend to be more patriotic than others? The truth is, to me, these claims describe what it means to be unpatriotic

Patriotism, I believe is like virtue, or wisdom. We can become more virtuous and wiser. As time has passed and I have learned to love America more, I too have become more patriotic. I want a better America for my children and their children and my friends' children. I would like my generation to leave a more whole America for them, for I believe that a healthy America is good for the world community. I have a clearer vision of the world than most Americans and realize what a gift the American system is - if it could be preserved intact. I would like to see the American century prolonged; knowing what I know about China and Africa, I fear the ascendancy of the Chinese.

Because of their gratitude for what the country has done for them and their deeper and clearer understanding of this great country, many immigrants to America are truer patriots compared to many American-born citizens who wear their patriotism on their sleeves. To them patriotism is no more than a spoken language, a simple tune that demands little thought; compared to the immigrant's detailed thinking, resulting in a deeper conviction about the country.

There is much that bothers me about America's behavior and often wonder if what some folks do can be described as patriotic. Or not. In some instances, patriotism is like light and darkness; you define one by the lack of the other. I know that any behavior that precludes the survival of the human species is unpatriotic.

I know too that those segments of our society that try to delegitimize others are unpatriotic. How for instance could the KKK have been regarded as more patriotic than black WW II veterans? How can anyone pretend that gay Americans are less patriotic than heterosexuals? But they do.

I am particularly mystified by those who dismantle companies, factories and export jobs overseas. Is that patriotic? I believe that Ken Lay and the other founders of ENRON, folks who knowingly destroyed employees' and investors' lives were unpatriotic. Greedy unscrupulous subprime mortgage lenders and bankers mismanaged the Real Estate market for years. still they show their patriotic colors by waving their American flags.

Politicians and business leaders whose personal ambition and interest supersede the welfare of the people and the nation are unpatriotic. CEOs who earn 400 times what their employees earn are unjust. I have doubts about their patriotism. If the desire is to profit, disregarding the security and well-being of the nation and its people, then it is unpatriotic.

For thirty years, American car manufacturers cajoled and threatened our politicians not to change CAFÉ standards. They refused to build more fuel efficient cars as Japan diligently researched and developed tomorrow's cars. The result is Detroit is dying; many across America are losing their livelihoods. To this foreigner's thinking, Detroit's behavior, concerned more with profits and less about America's future, sounds less patriotic.

What Americans need are fewer words; less shouting and more thoughtful dialogue between the citizenry. Many immigrants believe America needs to be more grown up about such things as patriotism and citizenship. This is an age of great problems, great global conflicts. The last thing we should be doing is worrying about who is more or less patriotic. That at any rate is an immigrant's point of view.

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