In Armonk, New York, where I was raised, we celebrated the Fourth of July in the most traditional of ways: standing alongside Route 128, the road to Mount Kisco and Main Street all rolled into one, waving little American flags and watching the veterans, the baton twirlers, the volunteer fire department, and all the other town worthies march or drive past as we cheered. If I wished to, today I could see a similar parade a little ways outside of San Francisco, but I am just as happy to remember. Meanwhile, here in the city of otherly love, Gay Pride weekend and its massive parade just happened. Once upon a time this parade represented a threat to the city’s status quo: now, no serious San Francisco politician would miss being a part of it, and the corporate sponsorships are more noticeable than the half-naked drag queens, muscle men, and dykes on bikes.
I love the United States. I don’t think we are the greatest nation in the world, or the coolest; such rankings diminish us all. I don’t think it is America’s destiny or right to be the richest or most powerful country, or to lead and control the world. I even hope that someday we will disappear because humankind won’t need nation states anymore; that we will build a world where everyone is a citizen and we all have equal rights under a just system of law and government. But today I am grateful to be a citizen of this nation and proud of what we strive to be—a nation where everyone is created equal, with certain unalienable rights; a nation with a government of the people, by the people, for the people—even if we constantly stumble and fail to achieve these lofty ideals. For all our flaws, our myth of who we are called to be is noble, and every step taken in that direction raises us all.
The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"