As we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and lots of displays of our national flag, patriotism, obviously, is emphasized. Besides the emotions of love and pride, patriotism should include other rational and practical aspects.
We have to remember that patriotism is not blind devotion whereas reasonable criticism, evaluation, and corrective action are absent. The flag represents certain values, above all the rights and privileges we enjoy in this country. But, we didn't arrive here by divine ordinance--we got here after a long trek filled with trials & tribulations, and because many people fought for those rights. Of course, the journey continues as there are still strong forces for regression, prejudice, and willful ignorance.
For all the advancements and great achievements the US has managed, we are not the freest country, the most educated, the healthiest, the richest (per capita), nor do our people report one of the highest happiness levels. We're stressed, have too much poverty, too much suffering (health care included), too much militaristic, too wide income disparity, and too much violence.
So, clearly there's much to be done. This country was built on rugged individualism but also on the strength of our secular institutions embedded in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights included. During times of crisis, the national makeup of a country is revealed. The choices the people make are paramount.
Ancient Athens became too powerful, too rich, and too arrogant. As Athenians believed they were invincible, they overextended themselves. The defeats came, and crises ensued. This, in turn, challenged the confidence of the citizens and their democracy. As things worsened, Athenians gave up all those values and practices that had made their city-state great.
The US must avoid the same path. American exceptionalism must be checked, and the neo-cons who exaggerate it must be defeated. The Tea Parties [as we now know are basically groups of conservative Republicans and other extremists] lack the characteristics of the protest movements of the 1960s & 70s. The former are for a minimal government that's impotent to help the less powerful in our society, while the "radical" movements of the past were more altruistic--about civil rights, gender and racial equality, and an end to imperialism.
Enjoy the holiday weekend and enjoy life in general. Just remember, we can't be tourists in our own country. We have to help progress continue.