On the 4th of July, I took to walking through lower Manhattan. Strolling around in record-breaking heat and sunshine, I found myself by the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. That’s where I saw flocks of people suddenly remembering their “patriotism” to the United States of America. I use patriotism in quotations not only because we have forgotten why we celebrate the Fourth, but also because we the people of the United States, are not as nationalistic as we think we are.
Call me crazy, but our reliance on China to supply cheap and tacky “patriotic” products to celebrate the United State’s independence from Great Britain is laughable. Not only are the products disrespectful to the flag of the United States, a symbol of allegiance to a sovereign nation, they violate the flag code. These inexpensive goods are nothing but insincere and superficial ways to show patriotism one day of the year.
Everyone in the park was either wearing or carrying flags, bathing suits, hats, tote bags, t-shirts, and mini dresses adorned with Old Glory. Each soul, whether human or canine, was sporting “patriotic” noisemakers, sunglasses, beach towels, pinwheels, and bandanas.
The first large organized Independence Day celebration occurred in Philadelphia in 1777. The day-long celebration consisted of thirteen13 discharges of cannon blasts, one round for each state in the union, ringing of bells, a dinner for members of Congress, and music. A Philadelphia newspaper wrote about “loud huzzas" and drinking of toasts, one for each state in the union. There was a parade, fireworks, and people decorated the ships and gallies in the harbor.
Then there’s 4 U.S.C. § 8, also known as United States Code Respect for Flag. Putting all problems with our government aside, our flag deserves the respect the Founding Fathers intended. While walking through New York City on the 4th of July, I was appalled at what I saw. To my knowledge, violations of Section 8(d), 8(g), and 8(i), were everywhere.
8(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
8(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
8(i) It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.
The first anniversary of the United States was one filled with jubilation for the birth of a new country, and one filled with remembrance for the soldiers who fought the British for freedom. Today, lots of people I know tweet “Happy birthday #Merica,” grab a beer, head out to a block party decked out head-to-toe in the nation’s colors, and call it a day. Is this really how one celebrates what it means to be patriotic?
To me, patriotism is having an unwavering love for your country, and not just in an ironic or imperialist manner. Patriotism is standing up against injustices and violations of freedom committed against your fellow Americans, whether they follow a different religion, look different, or speak a different language. And I write this as an eighteen18-year-old British-born Egyptian-American Muslim.