Patriotism for normies: How to still believe in America

Call it an immigrant’s naiveté, but I refuse to feel this way. An America in which large crowds are mobilized from the top down and pressured to claim their total allegiance to a cause, any cause, is not the America I know and love. An America in which you are ordered to excuse violence of any kind for whatever reason is not the America I know and love. An America in which even a show for toddlers about dogs with jobs feels compelled to make a political message and a television channel for school-age children is urging parents to baptize their kids in the swamp of politics is not the America I know and love. An America in which political interests with deep pockets and bad faith design large steamrollers for the sole purpose of flattening the national conversation into loud, declarative sentences—all cops are bastards! Dominate the streets! Power to the people! Call in the army!—is not the America I know and love. That America, the America leering at us from every TV screen and social media post this week, is one that’s terrible for the Jews—somehow, the zealots on both sides always find their way to the shul—and horrible for Americans.

Thankfully, that’s not the America I see this week. What I see are people like me, who understand that this messy and painful conversation, like all messy and painful conversations, can only be had with open minds and open hearts, with great sorrow and wild optimism jousting for our attention, with enough inconvenient truths to keep us up at night, and without ever succumbing to the Soviet-style expectation that unless we somehow make our politics unmistakably public we may be somehow at fault and at risk.