As a kid, I took things pretty seriously. One of these things was love of country. I was sincere in the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance. I was attentive to the words of every patriotic song. I stood for and respected the flag. That’s not to say I don’t still do these things now, but it’s different.
When we are young, we tend to idealize our parents. As we grow we may become angry or disillusioned as we discover that our parents are human, too; they make mistakes, and they don’t know everything. As we grow into adulthood, we try to make peace with the humanity and imperfections of our parents; try to develop a different kind of relationship with them and move forward together. This is how it has been for me and my national pride.
Thus, national holidays can have similar complexities to family holidays. The way ones grandma might lay it on too thick, or uncle might always pin you in an uncomfortable conversation. My advice to you in these situations, be they a national or family holiday, is to look for the stories. How your grandparents met, or why your family came to this country. Ask what it was like to serve in the military, or remember together where you were when Kennedy was shot, or when the twin towers fell.
For just as our family stories build our identity, so do our national stories. And many times there is overlap between the two. These stories remind us who we are and have been, and hopefully give us some insight into who we want to be.
There may be things we aren’t proud of, or things we don’t agree on, but focusing on our shared stories helps us to see the ways we do the best we can, and the values we share. They help us to appreciate how WE are a part of the “family’s” story, and the “family’s” story is part of us. And that is something to be proud of. We are part of a huge story. We are connected to SOOO many people.
Let this July fourth be a time to remember and reconcile with our national ( and family) heritage, and to endeavor that our part of the story might be something the next generation will be proud of.