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Toward A New Patriotism

Coming out of double weeks of political conventions, something surprising happened amidst all the live Tweetings and shocking power plays: a New Patriotism emerged.

For years, it seems, we young, liberal Americans have been searching for a patriotism that is uniquely “us” as the old style patriotism makes us skeptical we’re living in the same America as our elders. But, last week, our patriotism emerged: things snapped at the face of intellectual divide.

It happened on night three, after the ideological cloud had evaporated over America by way of Joe Biden and Barack Obama’s speeches. The President and Vice President captured something, something that was simmering in both Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton’s speeches: there was an air of us, in the power of the people, in inclusivity. It seems so obvious this election cycle, as words and phrases to bemoan outsiders have taken the fore, that a generation of outsiders and rejects are forming together around a want to feel included and loved.

It all seems to stem from our own history of America fucking us over. More than the college bills or the recession, growing up with anti-queer hate and current countering to black lives, leaning more toward being overlooked and “useless” by our elders, people like Joe Biden leaned down to pet our faces by saying, “We never bow, we never break, when confronted with crisis. We endure!” That called directly to us—a generation who have been in constant crisis yet have endured. Is that the same pride that Lee Greenwald sang about when we were kids, a song I heard a million times on military bases and cringed with every incarnation? Is that the same patriotism that puts tears in my father’s eyes when he watches a movie about war? Is that the same patriotism you put on the back of your pickup truck, the kind of philosophy that ends with “…these colors don’t run!!”? Not really.

You see, what’s happening that is so different is that this isn’t an “us versus them” mentality, not “America versus The Other” mindset: this is “America as catalyst for unity,” the melting pot we all love so much. As we fight for black lives and trans lives, patriotism emerges as a cover of a classic Sister Sledge song. The LA Times put it best over the weekend: the Democrats are “seeking to redefine patriotism to celebrate the country’s increasing diversity and its openness to previously excluded groups.”

By the time Hillary’s speech hit, we—all of us left out from the RNC and hoping to find a place in the America that was for everyone—found what we had been searching for. This wasn’t just a win for the Democrats but a win for everyone as countless Republicans wished that was their party’s convention. It was old America, remixed, refashioned, represented in an unfiltered artisanal manner to appeal to us who know that America is great when we all respect and believe each other to be great. It isn’t great when we are divided and pissing on brains, on science, on minds, on hearts. Being alone is great, in the microcosm, but not in the macro sense. Every millennial knows that.

As if we needed any more proof of this, Trump came in on cue to reenforce this by attacking parents of soldiers, a backhanded slam at American prisoners of war. Khizr and Ghazala Khan stand for so much—for military families, for minority families, for immigrant families, for the new American family—yet a potential president blasphemed them multiple times. Is that what you want America to look like? As Ghazala Khan shared with The Washington Post, “you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.”

That, friends, is what the New Patriotism is getting at: caring for America as a family, a cohesive unit that—despite the tiffs—is one body that loves and respects everyone involved and seeks to help the greater family tree it is attached to. The New Patriotism is to be forward thinking, bringing everyone forward instead of only some people forward. The New Patriotism builds on the Old Patriotism, looking beyond us, beyond the self, to the world. To be an American citizen is to be a citizen of the world: no one gets ahead from isolation, from individualism, from overvaluing the singular. That is New Patriotism—and that seems to be what will define this election.

Hopefully that will be what can court so many who feel helpless in the world of politics.

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