I was a patriotic child. I read all the American history books on the shelves at the public library--from Jamestown and the Mayflower through the American Revolution, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, the first woman doctor and Clara Barton and Jane Addams, the Depression and even a little bit about World War II. I said the Pledge of Allegiance believing in liberty and justice for all. I sang the National Anthem at ball games. I believed all that stuff and felt pride in the men and women who built a nation in which communities cared for the weak as well as the strong.
And I've stayed a believer. The idea that Woodward and Bernstein pursued truth to its logical end and took down a dishonest president inspired me. When the Berlin Wall came down, I gave thanks for the Americans who had stood fast for freedom and free markets. With Martin Luther King I know that the arc of history bends towards justice.
When Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield, Illinois--Lincoln's State Capital--and announced he was running for president, boy, I thought that was audacious. But he had me. I couldn't get on a bus and go canvas Iowa, but I made some phone calls back in 2008, and I've made some more in the last few days. I've responded to more than one email with a $10 donation. I somehow have a sense that I, as just one of many, can make a difference.
So when I watched this video online a little while ago, after talking with a couple voters up in Minnesota, well, both the ten-year-old inside me and the much older woman I am now were proud to be part of the United States of America.
If things turn out tonight as probability suggests they will and President Obama is reelected, he won't have an easy second term. There will be lots of fighting with Congress, lots of vilification from the right and damnation by faint praise from the left. But this country will have near-universal health insurance at last and maybe even immigration reform, along with responsible actions on the national budget and debt.
So watch this, and if you tear up as I do, know hope, know progress, know community. This is what patriotism should look like.