Mistress of the Mix: I Am a Patriot (Stop Telling Me I’m Not)

This week, as I prepare to march in my hometown 4th of July parade, I’m feeling more patriotic than ever. Wanna know why?

Because I give a shit. 

I feel like America has been rotting from the inside out for the past few years, and I’ve discovered that I actually care. Deeply. Not only that, I think if I were to have the opportunity to have a face-to- face meeting with the current president, I finally have something positive to say to him; something to thank him for. And that thing is this: I finally feel like I really understand and care about the principles that America was founded upon and the freedoms bestowed upon our citizens. Now, more than ever, I care about the philosophies our forefathers set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Maybe today would be a good day to read it.

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. 

Those are the main philosophical highlights from the Declaration of Independence. The things that they wished for us. And then there’s the philosophy that set the moral code that all Americans should strive for: that all of us are created equal. It’s taken a few hundred years to actually get to the place where all Americans are even close to being considered equal. We’re still not there yet. Also, I take issue with the fact that Thomas Jefferson used the word man, and not human or person. He said all men were created equal. But I’m not here to talk about women’s rights today, I’m here to talk about patriotism, and who has the right to decide who is and is not patriotic.

But first, liberty. Freedom. 

When we talk about freedoms bestowed upon us Americans, what we’re really talking about is the United States Constitution and its 27 amendments. I’m talking about the freedoms that our forefathers felt strongly enough to go to war with England over. The freedoms that they wanted to ensure for every American back then, right now, and into the future. The freedoms that I feel are under attack again. So thank you, Donald J. Trump, because you and your base are largely responsible for reminding me what those freedoms are, how precious they are, and how caring about those freedoms and being willing to stand up for them is what actually defines a patriot.

Back in the 1770s, Americans wanted to be free from the religious shackles that had been forced upon them by England. That does not mean that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or any of the other statesmen who created the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution weren’t spiritual people who believed in a creator. Many of them did. Some of them didn’t. Many of them believed differently from one another. But they all agreed that trying to force a single religion down the throats of citizens and using that religion to control them was not acceptable in this country. It is literally the very first item on their agenda in the 1st Amendment. It is quickly followed by a phrase that also gives Americans the freedom to exercise a religion if they so wish. My takeaway? Practice a religion or don’t practice a religion. Your choice, your right. But don’t use a religion to govern or infringe upon the rights of citizens.

The other freedoms written into the 1st Amendment secure our rights in regards to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully assemble and finally the right to petition the government.

The right to petition the government. What does this mean? It means that the first government of the United States of America understood that not every citizen was always going to be happy with the way the government was being run. And yet, they believed that citizens should have the right to complain about the government and to the government without fear of punishment or reprisal.

Somehow in the past couple of years, things have been flipped upside down, and our current administration is trampling all over the protections of the 1st Amendment, with no apologies. Freedom of The Press? Not a day goes by that the current administration isn’t actively declaring war on the press. Freedom of Speech? Only if you’re agreeing with them. And that last freedom…the Freedom to Petition?

This is when I get to talk about our hometown hero, Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe is clearly the biggest athletic force to ever be born and raised in Shasta County. She is setting a heck of a fine example of how far one can go in life if one works and trains hard, and shows determination and grit. Rapinoe has been scoring goal after goal after goal both on and off the soccer field. She is more than a gold-medal winning Olympic athlete. In fact, more importantly, she is a tireless advocate for equality.

One of the things that makes her so special is that she is not just standing up for women’s equality, and she’s not just an out-gay woman pushing for LGBTQ+ rights. She is also standing up for the rights of other people who fall outside of her own demographic because she believes it’s the right thing to do. As the first female athlete and the first white athlete to do so, Megan Rapinoe took a knee in 2016 during the national anthem, to highlight systemic racism in the United States. That dedication to standing up to oppression and inequality is why she is using her moment in the spotlight as the nation’s most celebrated female athlete, calling attention to the things she feels the current political administration is getting wrong. She doesn’t kneel during the anthem any longer, but that’s really only because the soccer federation passed a rule requiring players to stand during the anthem. So she stands. But she doesn’t put her hand over her heart, and she doesn’t sing.

And people who call themselves patriotic are raking her over the coals for that, saying she’s disrespecting the flag. Customers of Jack’s Grill, where Megan’s mom has worked for decades, complained about her un-American behavior until photos of the soccer star were removed from the establishment’s walls.

These people misunderstand what a patriot is. Megan Rapinoe is not disrespecting the flag. She’s exercising her American right to express her opinion that she’s not happy with the way some things are being handled in her country. I think if she didn’t love her country, she wouldn’t bother protesting. Clearly, she gives a shit. And I believe that not only should we be proud of her accomplishments, we should be proud that she has the guts and the bravery to stand up for what she believes in. Because she believes in freedom and all people being equal. She believes in the philosophies that our forefathers intended when they built this nation. She is the epitome of a patriotic American. It is those who are claiming Rapinoe is behaving in un-American fashion who are being unpatriotic.

Spread that on your toast and eat it, haters.

What I find kind of ridiculous about the whole thing is that Megan Rapinoe is doing a whole lot of nothing for the incredible amount of attention she’s received during this year’s World Cup season. Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that on the field she’s a baller. She is out there playing as hard as she can for Redding, for Shasta County, for California, for the U.S.A. She is iconic.

But off the field, before the game, she’s just being completely silent, and saying nothing. She’s not putting her hand over her heart like some do, and she’s not singing the national anthem, like some do. But that’s not wrong behavior. It’s no more wrong than the president singing a few lyrics and then giving up completely, as seen in this video below (where, I might add, the rest of the people don’t have their hands over their hearts and aren’t singing either).

Don’t feel like you have to watch it. It’s cringeworthy. No, wait. I think you should watch it, so you can see how this guy – who has consistently criticized athletes who don’t sing the national anthem, as being unpatriotic – sings the national anthem. Or, if you’re feeling particularly feisty today, you could just head over here and watch the bad lip sync version of the same video. It’s better than #unwantedivanka.

Every day that Donald J. Trump uses his position as the leader of the United States of America to try to punish and bully anyone who does not agree with him or his policies, is a day that he is behaving in extraordinarily unpatriotic fashion. It would be so nice if Trump would just put his phone down and focus on being a president instead of using his precious time as the leader of the free world to attack his citizenry. It’s downright un-American.

The next time someone tells you that you are disrespecting the flag because you’re not standing the right way with your hand placed just so, with your hat in your hand, singing the words to the national anthem? Don’t worry. That’s not what what patriotism is actually about. And don’t let anyone who’s trying to take your rights away tell you otherwise. Even those people who are criticizing Megan Rapinoe? They’re just exercising their 1st Amendment freedoms, too.

But those of you who support marriage equality for LGBTQ+ citizens? You are a patriot. You support equal rights for women and people of color? You’re a patriot. You take issue with the Conservative Christian Right trying to take away reproductive health care decisions from women? You are a patriot, too. You take a knee in peaceful protest to call attention to systematic racism in this country? You are also a patriot. Our forefathers fought a war and formed a new country to give us these freedoms, and over time we have expanded these freedoms. Trying to take those freedoms away is unpatriotic.

If you’re feeling like waving your freak flag today and show off how much you love your country with some music, here’s a streaming 4th of July playlist that will hopefully satisfy that need.

And now I’m gonna put on my tiara and my gold cape, and go march in a parade.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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