Friday, June 30, 2006

Independence Day, Indeed!

What a week! I am so glad it is Friday. However, this weekend and the 4th of July holiday promise to be busy. Independence Day will have new meaning this year since Derek joined the Marine Corp, and since he won't be there with us, it will be one more very stressful holiday. More than ever, I am sure that I will struggle with not making snide comments when the patriotic music roars and the mortars and fireworks go off. At the same time, I'm sure I will tear up when I hear the Star Spangled Banner. Before we had Noah, Erik and I would sit on a blanket behind all of the relatives on the Brunin side of the family and give political commentary on what was wrong with American foreign policy. We thought it was hysterical. Some of my relatives, namely Aunt Debbie, made it very clear that they did not appreciate our political wit. So we stopped. I figured that it wasn't worth ruining their holiday. I wish I could revel in mindless patriotism. I don't mean that badly. I wish I could just enjoy it like I used to, but with everything going on, I just can't.

The funny thing is, I love the 4th of July. It is one holiday where I don't have to try and figure out whether it is compatible with my Islamic beliefs. I'm American, so I celebrate Independence Day. I love the traditional BBQ at the Brunins and I love fighting off the enormous mosquitoes at the park, seeing people I haven't seen in years, and oohing and aahing over the fireworks. For being a small town, St. Marys has an excellent display. This year I am particularly excited to show Noah the fireworks. I don't know what his reaction will be, but it will be fun, I think.

As I was saying, with everything going on, I just can't feel the swelling of pride in my chest that I used to. I think it was 9/11 that everything changed. Before 9/11, it was American Independence Day. Now it just feels like one more reason people have to tell you to shut your mouth. Instead of playing "America the Beautiful," radio stations play Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue", reminding everyone why it is necessary to kick the rest of the world's ass if they look at us wrong, or Lee Greenwood, reminding us that no matter how bad things are, we should be grateful that we are in America because being an American makes everything okay. Sure, you don't have any food for your children, but at least you are American!

Then, there was the flag-burning amendment that failed this week (thank God), put through exactly a week before the holiday. I don't know if the resolution that passed today condemning the U.S. media was supposed to coincide with the holiday, but it seemed about as unpatriotic as it could get. I know we are at war and civil liberties die during times of war. They always have in American history. I guess I thought that we had progressed beyond that point. Maybe I am imagining it, but before 9/11, both the liberals and conservatives would have stood up and protested against loss of freedom of the press, or being wiretapped, or having their financial transactions viewed without their knowledge. They knew what was acceptable and what was not. Loss of civil liberties was not acceptable. Now it is as if no one cares, or if they do care, they feel powerless to do anything about it. It's like someone zapped this country with a 25-megaton apathy bomb.

Honestly, I am no exception. I heard about the database of phone records and I was like, "Well, if they want to listen to me discuss the skin problem that my rat suffers from, or how I just purchased new drapes, go ahead." Then I thought, "You know, that is unacceptable. It is none of their damn business that my rat has mites. They are invading my privacy, pure and simple. Why should they get to know about the intimate details of my life when they are unwilling to share information that by all rights, should be public record? You tell me why you need the records and give a good answer, not a generic 'the terrorists will win if you don't' answer, and maybe I will consider allowing them to spy on me on a limited basis (unlikely, but maybe it really is a good reason)."

As American taxpayers, we are entitled to some answers, damn it. I guess that is what is so ludicrous about the resolution passed today. News organizations, whether they be Fox News or the New York Times, provide us with information that we might not otherwise have. They are an unofficial check on the government and they are vitally important. If these news organizations do whatever the government tells them to do, we might as well not have the media. What would be the point? After all this rant, I really don't have an answer. I just know that we should not allow ourselves to become desensitized to these gradual erosions of our civil liberties. When something outrages us, we should tell someone about it. You might end up in an argument or a fight, but at least we're talking about it. We are still exercising our freedom of speech, whether we're conservative, liberal, moderate, Smurf, or whatever.

This 4th of July, I think I will resurrect the political commentary that Erik and I used to engage in. Sure, it will piss people off, but at least we will be capturing the real meaning of Independence Day and everything that it represents. We will truly be celebrating the 4th of July. God Bless America and Happy 4th of July. Let's go raise some hell, American-style!

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