I had another conversation the other day very similar to conversations I've had before. I asked someone who had come to the US from India what his favorite and least favorite parts of this country were. He said his favorite part was the "freedom." I've heard this answer before, from other immigrants. It sounds like what every flag waving patriot would want to hear, doesn't it? I asked, as I have before, what exactly that meant. The right to bear arms? Freedom of speech? The right to peaceful assembly?
No, he said, they have all of those rights under the Indian constitution too.
He meant the right to wait until you're forty to get married, or not get married at all. The right to major in something besides medicine or engineering in college. The right to get a low paying job that makes you happy without losing your place in your family or society. The lack of pressure to conform, he said, culturally, religiously, socially.
I've heard the same answer, in almost the same words, before. It strikes me that this isn't the kind of freedom that Republicans think they're defending. It sounds a lot like immigrants like all of the "alternative lifestyles" available in the US. The right to be gay, maybe, should go on that list. (I asked if my Indian friend thought so, and he agreed that it was more or less part of the same thing, though it made him somewhat uncomfortable when he first came.)
If this really is the freedom that other countries admire the US for, I think we need a different kind of patriotism to reflect that. And I think some flag-pin worshippers ' heads may explode, if they ever talk to any actual immigrants.