Is it possible to hate America and love her at the same time?
The answer is a surprising yes, and that gives me, as a conservative, hope for America.
San Francisco writer/editor Arvin Temar (a liberal, but that would be redundant) penned a brutally honest and touching tribute to America in The Washington Post about Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
Because despite the nation’s flaws, I do love this land. I am proud to be an American. And “God Bless the USA,” despite its flaws, beautifully captures that sentiment.
Many liberals say how they’re not proud to be an American, but they don’t really mean it. Most of the time radical leftists stay too angry to realize their true feelings, but when a tragedy happens, or Americans step up to our better angels, even they feel that lump in their throats.
See, this country, even for raw illegal immigrants who don’t learn English, is worth fighting for, even if it’s fighting for a version of America that political opposites wouldn’t recognize nor would want to live in.
That’s a feature, not a bug.
The cultural and political fight we see in America is, at the fringes, a dangerous concoction of violence, yellow journalism, erosion of our treasured national institutions, and a seeping Hegelian dialectic in which the synthesis of thought runs ever further from God and into the abyss of humanism.
But at its core, people still sing O Say Can You See, even when the sound system fails at sports events. Liberals like Temar decry things like Greenwood’s song that are “jingoistic,” “glorifies war,” and “trumpets self-righteousness” if they also proclaim love for America.
(Liberals have no problem supporting jingoism, glorification of war, and smarmy self-righteousness when those things serve their own pet causes.)
But Temar loves “God Bless the USA” because it touches something deep inside him.
I know that feeling. It is a sense of immense love, even if that love is sometimes tinged by disappointment. When Greenwood sings in “God Bless the USA” that he’d “gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today,” it’s easy to understand where that sentiment comes from. You fight for what you love.
Liberals serve in the military. They run for office. They participate in civic organizations (not just political ones). They go to work, write software, collect garbage, fix cars, teach school, and play baseball.
Even if they hate this country, they love it. Temar may have best captured the spirit of this love/hate quoting Ray Charles addressing critics of his 1972 recording of “America the Beautiful,” although he altered the lyrics to remove verses that were “too white” for him.
When a black magazine criticized Charles for “selling out” by singing the song, he said his attitude toward America was like that of a mother chastising a child: “You may be a pain in the ass, you may be bad, but child, you belong to me.”
This is our country. Though most liberals hate anything smacking of conservative, Republican, or (God help us) President Donald Trump, the vast majority of them have their own “God Bless the USA” deep inside.
America’s biggest problem may very well be that it’s too filled with liberals wanting to “turn it my way,” as Temar turned Charles’ phrase. But what other country in the world is as infested with mothers-in-laws, critics, and gadflies as our own, all of whom can still proclaim that they love this place more than anywhere else?
And Ray Charles, Lee Greenwood, and one honest liberal is enough to give me hope.