Every nation has its reason for being proud regardless of its political achievements in history. Even the most miserable nations on the planet must have a list of what make them proud. It is this national pride that helps with the feeling of patriotism – love for the nation.
Talking about the United States of America, perhaps the proudest nation on earth for holding the title of the leader of the free world (whatever this means), it is easy to picture America as an institution forgetting that this same institution is nothing more than a huge amount of people within the same borders. White males, educated and successful have all the reasons in the world to look back in history and thank God for the day that Columbus discovered their blessed land. But would the native-Americans, for instance, who suffered genocide by him and by so many after him, thank Columbus the same way?
Some American plays written within the scope of racism and sexism in the country mirror a part of society that wasn’t feeling so patriotic after all. Americans were fighting Hitler for being the racist-extraordinaire in Europe but still segregating their own people as if blacks and whites were not the same kind of human beings. Howard Zinn in History of United States describes: “The black militant mood, flashing here and there in the thirties, was reduced to a subsurface simmering during WWII, when the nation on the one hand denounced racism, and on the other hand maintained segregation in the armed forces.” Blacks have been asking themselves if Independence Day should be a National Day for all because the concept of “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” was not meant for all.
The same goes for women who have reasons to feel sceptical of the significance of the Fourth of July. Their battle hasn’t finished yet and perhaps never will for the lack of engagement and interest of the society. Even those women, who in some point of their lives try to make a difference, realize sooner or later that they are either financially independent but lonely, or financially dependent and surrounded by family. Perhaps nobody was meant to have it all.
Visiting a fishing village off Hong Kong 12 years ago the tour guide mentioned that there was a belief in one of the ramifications of Buddhism (cannot recall which one) that hell was here, our lives, Planet Earth. We were meant to suffer. Russians also believe that life needs suffering to have a meaning. But Americans always try so hard to show the world that they are so happy, so proud and so patriotic of the ‘best country in the world’. It is a very theatrical approach to reality, indeed. The funny thing is that theatre, together with literature, shows what goes through people’s minds when they felt lost and hopeless faced with the aftermath of Crash of 1929, when America bombed Vietnam and Iraq for no substantial reason, when people suffered due to segregation, or illusion of a better life for all. In short, as much as Americans have some reasons to feel patriotic, they should be careful when generalizing that feeling, because it certainly doesn’t go for all.
Luciana B. Veit