Jul 1, 2010 - Issue 382
This weekend we celebrate July 4 with rounds of festivities marking our nation’s 234 years of independence.
But this country’s need to showcase her indomitable spirit of heroism continues to come at the expense of basic freedoms and protections denied to us lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans.
While it is true that the House of Representatives voted to repeal former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 DADT policy that bars LGBTQ servicemembers from serving openly in the military last month, and on the same day last month the House passed to repeal DADT, as did the Senate Armed Services Committee, the plight of our LGBTQ servicemembers remains unchanged.
While it’s true that the
This year does not, however, mark the first time our Independence Day celebrations have overlooked a sector of the population. I am reminded, for example, of the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) and his historic speech, “What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July?” To a country in the throes of slavery, he said, “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?… I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary. Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.… This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.”
As LGBTQ Americans, our patriotism is not recognized.
But one of our community’s greatest moments of patriotism was the Stonewall
Riots of June 27–29, 1969, in
As we celebrate our nation, we must not allow its core principles - independence, freedom, and justice - to become desecrated by bigotry and hatred. True patriots from Patrick Henry to Martin Luther King Jr. have always embraced difference and dissent.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in his Montgomery Bus Boycott speech on December 5, 1955: “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.”
When patriotism is narrowly defined, however, it can only be accepted and exhibited within the constraints of its own intolerance, like the passing of the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” also known as the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which has us all living in a police state.
With this form of patriotism, demagogues emerge
as patriots espousing an unconditional love for a democratic
When the demagogues’ model of patriotism is infused with conservative or fundamentalist tenets of Christianity, this form of patriotism functions like a religion with its litanies of dos and don’ts. So Fourth of July celebrations have their commandments that must be upheld in the name of patriotism in the same manner that Sunday worship must be upheld in the name of God.
And when people meld religion with patriotism, like the deceased Reverend Jerry Falwell did, and Sarah Palin now does, you have a form of hyperpatriotism where the concepts of “God, guns, and glory” sadly shape the American landscape.
One of our most famous American heroes is Patrick Henry, who we all know for his famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” in his speech on March 23, 1775, in which he explained how he views himself as the “other.” “No man thinks more highly than I do of patriotism.… But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.”
And like Henry, we must speak our sentiments freely
and without reserve. Our patriotism, shown in the form of pride celebrations
and social protests, is no less American than Fourth of July extravaganzas.
In fact, all acts of celebrating the
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev. Monroe.