The celebration of our nation’s independence is upon us, and thanks to recent comments from a family member questioning my patriotism, I have spent the last week reflecting on what exactly patriotism means for a country so deeply divided. Perhaps, the commemoration of the Fourth of July is an opportunity to consider what initially united us as a country and rally behind a powerful embodiment of those values, Megan Rapinoe.
Like many San Antonians, I have followed the Women’s World Cup closely, hoping for a victory for the defending team donning our country’s colors. The USWNT has attracted international attention for their lawsuit against FIFA. In March, twenty-eight players alleged gender discrimination, which is most notable in the compensation differences that favor the men’s national team. A World Cup victory for the USWNT is a victory for women athletes, and the team is as conscious of that as their adoring fans are globally.
As if that was not enough to amplify the pressure, President Trump took to Twitter in response to Rapinoe saying she will not visit the White House if the team wins. He challenged Rapinoe’s patriotism saying she “should never disrespect our country, the White House, or our Flag…”
Even in the crossfire of the Twitterverse, Rapinoe, who calls herself a “walking protest,” did not back down. She explained in an interview with The Guardian that she and her teammates work hard to use their platform for good and that lending their platform to an administration that’s not fighting the same fight would go against what they stand for.
This is patriotism. The act of protest was ingrained in the fabric of the country even before the Founding Fathers resolved to pursue independence from the British monarchy and has throughout our history promoted progress. From the Boston Tea Party to the hunger strikes of women’s suffrage to San Antonio’s pecan-shellers’ strike to the 2019 Indigenous People’s March, protests have pushed Americans forward, demonstrating the true meaning of patriotism.
When the Second Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence, they adopted the radical notion that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. The Declaration articulated that when a government is destructive, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…” Granted there are continued problems with who is or is not considered people in this country, the premise that we are responsible for our own democracy stands.
In the early days of the Rivard Report, I attended an event where Robert Rivard led a discussion with Christopher Phillips, author of Constitution Café: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution. The book guides the average person through examining the Constitution and creating a discussion that could even lead to a new constitution. That’s right. A new constitution. Thomas Jefferson himself would be outraged that the constitution from the turn of the 18th century has persevered to the 21st, having written openly in favor of rebellion as a central element of our republic.
This Independence Day, and this Sunday, when the USWNT will defend our sacred honor, why not mirror the patriotism of Megan Rapinoe and consider whether our current government and its documents are leaving the world in a better place. This consideration may not unite us, but it is time to ask the question.