MINOT, N.D. — Patriotism, like so many topics in this unnuanced time, has become a team sport.
It wasn't always this way. It used to be a unifying concept. Americans could disagree while still believing, together, in the goal of the American experiment.
Now overt portrayals of love of country are considered passé in some circles.
One side of this divide would have us believe that America was founded upon bigotry. That's the premise behind the 1619 Project, promoted by The New York Times, one of our country's largest and most influential news media companies. It supposes that America's true founding was when the first slave was brought to our shores in 1619. It argues, from a place of deep historical illiteracy, that the American Revolution was fought to defend slavery.
This is rank revisionism, motivated by politics, but it's treated as serious and rigorous academic work by some.
The other side of the divide, though, is myopic about America's virtues, unwilling to hear even factual critiques of our nation's track record in living up to its aspirations. These people imagine themselves as patriots as if that term meant blind loyalty.
The Fourth of July is a flag-waving holiday, and why wouldn't it be? It celebrates the birth of our nation. The beginning of a new form of government in human experience. One that eschewed both the tyranny of monarchism and autocracy and the whims of populist mobs.
The American form of government sought to protect the rights of the individual, not just from the state but from each other.
The Constitution protects minority viewpoints, be they religious or in the press or just some yokel on a soapbox. It dramatically limited the state's police and military powers. It distributed government authority among multiple branches of government, and charged each with holding the others accountable, then went further in empowering state governments to act as a check on the federal government.
It missed some things, of course. It didn't outlaw slavery until the 19th century. Women didn't get universal suffrage until the 20th century. But the beautiful thing about our Constitution is that we were left an avenue through which it could be amended.
We've done that 27 times since the document was first ratified.
We added the bill of rights and suffrage for women. We ended slavery, implemented a term limit for the presidency, banned alcohol, and then, realizing what a colossally stupid idea that was, made it legal again.
The last amendment we passed stopped Congress from giving themselves pay raises before the next election.
It only took us 202 years, but we did it.
America is flawed, yes, but only because America is us, and not one of us is perfect.
So wave your flag this holiday. Be proud of what we try to be, and never forget that the work of being better is never done.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.