I have heard the same talk as you. That the American heritage is one wicked, built upon theft and violence, lies and cruelty. I have seen once-storied voices of order and reason turn in pious contempt to cast venom upon any who would dare say “I am proud to be an American.” I have seen those who have plundered from my pocket and yours, profiting off the fruits of the Tree of Liberty -- only to denounce freedom as dangerous, pride as hatred; private property as expendable, public buildings as sacred.
Suffer not such slander.
America is not a land nor people devoid of culture. Far from it. America’s shared mythology transcends all others. It unites the Catholic and the Lutheran, the Jew and the Muslim, the Buddhist and the Mormon. It has preserved this union as more than a collection of borders and laws, but as an ideal, a cohesive alliance of independent experiments in democracy. Our culture is entwined with our history. Our founders are equal parts men and legend, heroes and humans.
A nation’s identity is founded upon a shared mythology. Words to this effect did I hear, years ago, spoken by a living descendent of Teddy Roosevelt himself. They resonated then, and they resonate e’er louder now. They sound in my heart like the cracking of a bell, the report of a gunshot -- echoing ‘round the world.
I do not use these phrases idly -- these words speak to you, as they do to me and to any child of this land who has taken the time or opportunity to learn its history. These words have weight, for they carry the sacred symbolism of our land with them. They convey the virtues and values that once, not-so-long ago, all of us, the common folk, would have gladly agreed upon.
I grew up within the machine of the United States Armed Forces, a son of a soldier. My earliest idea of America was drawn from an image of many peoples, of all backgrounds, serving a common ideal. My earliest impression of this nation was a meritocracy, built with determination and skill. I have carried this idea of an America unburdened by concerns about race or religion, instead focused on a common mission of prosperity and of pride.
I grew up believing that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, and told the truth when confronted. I took to heart the importance of honesty and of responsibility. These stories are not childish things, they are not some sinister propaganda. These are the threads which bind our common culture, a culture that as we speak now has become quite firmly and formally decried as “hateful”. In a heartbeat of history, American heritage has become branded as blasphemy and those who would remember the words of our forefathers, and the nature of our foundation are now terrorists. Heretics of the modern age. I can already smell the bonfires.
Can we be said to even be a country, if this foundational identity, this American mythology, has become unlawful? Can we be said to even be united, if “unity” is only achieved through force and deceit? What will become of this storied history, which our ancestors fought and bled for, if none are permitted to speak of it, to celebrate it as once we all did?
Courage. The America of our legends saw men tangle tornados in hempen rope; it saw flesh and bone face the strength of steam power and win out. The America of our history saw armed insurgents defeat the greatest military power the world had ever known. There is power in our blood and there is nobility in our founding principles. The United States of America is not founded on supremacy; it was founded on liberty, and it was paid for by blood.
Those who plunder and disparage the fruits of the Tree of Liberty, who wear its seeds upon their glistening, fat mouths, should think carefully in this moment about how that tree is watered. As should we all.