Because I’m actually patriotic.

Like, in a real way.

Unlike fake “patriots,” I don’t pretend America is perfect and that one should never be allowed to criticize it. I understand that there is a dark side to American history. But I love and appreciate all that is most exciting and creative and dynamic about America–the diversity of cultures and religious traditions and political ideas and cuisines which make their home here. I love jazz and hip-hop and salsa, and how those sounds weave their way in and out of the fabric of the nation. Pizza, burritos, falafels, pierogi–yes, please! I’m a big fan of our new Vice-President, the child of Jamaican and South Asian immigrants–and a big fan of my new Muslim county commissioner, Nafisa Fai, who’s got Somali refugee roots. Pre-pandemic, one of my favorite things in the world was a noisy Portland street full of guitar-playing buskers, anarchist protesters and crazy end-times cult members trying to convert me. America wouldn’t be America without them.

But the people who call themselves “patriots”–people like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity–truth is, they don’t really like America. Not most of it, anyway. They hate cities. They don’t like immigrants, with a few (white-skinned) exceptions. They disdain large parts of American culture–all the music and movies and TV shows created by those coastal “libtards.” Lately, even sports has been in their crosshairs, seeing as so much of it is played by African-American athletes who will not remain conveniently silent about the racism they experience on a regular basis.

They love America only in the most narrow and most unimaginative way–as defined by one race, one religion, one culture, and controlled by one gender. And this from the people who love to talk about freedom….

The white man who drives a big truck, goes to church and listens to country is part of America, too. But the “patriot” movement wants him to become the definition of America. One shade of color instead of the entire rainbow.

But here is the true punchline of this joke…

The wealthy who lead and inspire this movement don’t even respect this middle American white male they mythologize. As far as they are concerned, he can remain poor, employed for a low wage, unable to obtain health care or a secure retirement. They don’t care if he’s able to keep the heat on when extreme weather comes through. They only care about him as long as he can be manipulated into voting for laws that allow them to retain as much of their wealth as possible.

So are they really patriotic? Do they like their fellow Americans?

I’ve got my doubts. And I will not be joining the Patriot Party anytime soon.

When I was younger, I used to daydream about Prince.  I would imagine what it would be like to be at one of the legendary parties at his mansion.  These were your typical lame-ass young girl fantasies.  Prince would come trotting out in his stilettos like the sexy little satyr that he was and he would play guitar for us.  Perhaps our eyes would meet for one magical moment.

But then I grew up, and I got a newsflash courtesy of Cold Hard Reality:  I would never actually go to one of Prince’s parties.  It just wouldn’t happen, in the same way that I would never date that old school crush or become a good dancer.  It wasn’t a painful realization, as by then my life had turned out to be far more unpredictable and meaningful than any celebrity fantasy could be.

The problem is, I live in a nation which still believes it’s going to get invited to the party.  Too many of my fellow Americans suffer from the mansion party syndrome.  They genuinely believe that one day they will be friends with Donald Trump.  One day, they too will be winners.  They will find a way to get rich.  Maybe they will make some brilliant investment, or their singing talents will be discovered on Youtube.  Or maybe they will win a million dollars on a reality show.

Here’s the thing–you won’t.  Your chances of joining that club are tiny to slim.  And that’s fine.  But please, don’t vote based on the delusion that your membership in that club is possible.  Stop voting against your own best interests.  You keep thinking that the oligarchs would love to be BFFs with you.  You’re waiting on the curb with that sad little bouquet, but your prom date isn’t coming to pick you up.  Wealthy and powerful America isn’t going to make out with you in the back of the limo.  They don’t care about you.

So don’t vote for the mansion.  Vote for who you are, for your little house or apartment, if you still have it, because even that is slipping through your fingers already.  There’s no shame in being a regular working person–you’re the one building this country, not Trump.  You deserve to have a glamorous party thrown in your honor for all the blood and sweat you put in every day.  Since that will never happen, at least stand up for yourself, and when Donald or Ted ask you out to the dance, turn them down.

After a long, exhausting day, I curl up in my bed and turn on the large screen sitting on my bedroom cabinet. And when I’ve stared into it for a while…suddenly…it’s all okay.

It’s okay that my spend my days at my overwhelming, soul-draining job because, hey, there’s always a chance that I might get on a reality show someday and win a million bucks. Maybe I’ll be the one who isn’t voted off the island. On Survivor, the Blue Collar team can beat the White Collar team, even though in real life they wouldn’t have a melting snowball’s chance of it.

It’s okay that a soldier gets his limbs blown off in one of our pointless wars, because he can still go on Dancing with the Stars.

It’s okay that there are parents out there who can’t afford medical care for their child, because the local news will tell me a heartwarming story about how their neighbors held a bake sale to try to raise the money.

It’s okay that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are both part of the same oligarchy running the nation, because the debate between those two is going to be so exciting!

It’s okay if I make less than a man, because Beyonce will sing me a song about how girls run the world.

It’s okay if tigers go extinct, as long as we have enough dogs left to do stupid pet tricks.

Bright colors flash into my eyes and happy tunes jingle into my brain, until I finally pass out, the tension leaving my shoulders and back, the white noise of our entertainment culture droning on…It’s gonna be okay…It’s gonna be okay….

Interesting quote from Paul Krugman on the Rachel Maddow show:  “You’re watching the hereditary principle starting to make a comeback…We see that a little bit from Mitt Romney. We used to think it’s all about equal chances and starting line. Now it’s…people should have the right to pass advantages onto their children.” 

Is this true?  A week or so ago, we had SE Cupp extolling the virtues of marrying wealthy partners.  Is it still about the old American ideal of working hard for what you get in life?  Or has it become acceptable to be part of a ruling aristocracy?

It will be fascinating—and more than a little unnerving—to see if we keep moving in this direction.