Joe Henderson: This wonderful place called America belongs to all of us


Happy Fourth of July.

Yes, it’s that grand day when we celebrate the birth of America — an ideal the likes of which the world had never seen. Even in times of division like we are experiencing now, the Fourth reminds us that America has endured a lot since the beginning and it can get through this.

It’s a day to wave Old Glory and strike up the orchestra with The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Those great fireworks shows provide the red glare of the rockets and the bombs bursting in air — although, note to firecracker-lovers in all neighborhoods throughout this state, please have a little courtesy. No one wants to hear your boom-booms at 2 in the morning.

I know. You’re just scaring birds, right?

Anyway, it’s perfectly fine for everyone to bask in a love-of-country glow on the Fourth because — and this important — no group or individual has a copyright on patriotism. I think some folks forget that.

Conservatives generally claimed exclusivity on patriotism a long time ago, and unfortunately, liberals and even moderates let them do it. So, that’s how we get all this rubbish about how only ultrapatriotic conservatives can represent the “true” America.

That just ain’t so.

I haven’t taken any scientific surveys, but I’ll bet a lot of U.S. soldiers, including those stationed in the most dangerous places on Earth, actually supported Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Does that mean some defenders of our nation aren’t patriotic?

Of course not.

Are liberals unpatriotic if they use their First Amendment rights to question President Trump and his policies?

Of course not.

Actually, this kind of robust division could be just what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Ultimately, we are governed by laws that stipulate what can or can’t be done, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some rootin’ tootin’ arguments about what those laws should be.

Is the news media unpatriotic because it reports things people with differing views don’t want to read or see?

Of course not.

The free press is just that — free.

The news outlets labeled “fake” and “failing” by the president don’t care about this nation any less than Fox. I’ll assume Sean Hannity loves this country and he certainly loves to remind us of that, but Anderson Cooper and Chuck Todd love this country too.

Football players are not unpatriotic if they take a knee during the national anthem to protest what they believe is an injustice. It may be offensive to some, but it’s not un-American.

Nations like China and North Korea aren’t “better” because they require unwavering allegiance to the supreme state. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s unpatriotic to question a nation’s leadership — even ours.

America is a lovely mess, where you can scream that I am wrong, and I can scream right back (although, of course, I’m too nice to do that) and neither of us goes to jail.

You don’t have to ride around with an American flag flapping from your car to prove you love this country. I believe the best way to demonstrate patriotism is to invite everyone to the table, even if they don’t look or think like you. We can learn from each other.

There are millions of people in the United States of America who may hold different ideas on how to get things done, but at their core are kind, caring, charitable and want only the best for their families and fellow citizens.

I wish we looked at each other that way more often because those values can bring us together more than the forces of division can tear us apart.

So light up the grill. Put on the burgers and hot dogs. Scoop the potato salad.

Or don’t.

However you celebrate the Fourth, this is your country.

But it belongs to all of us.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • James P. Davison DO.

    July 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    Joe I agree with your observation on liberals and patriotism. I, as a conservative, I would prefer that the logic in an idea and common sense govern the conversations between us and not emotion or which one loves America more. With that said I must ask the question, is it patriotic for a any newspaper, liberal or conservative to suppress information vital to the public so that they may make and informed decision on an issue. I have talked with multiple journalist and schools of journalism and they are unanimous that it is not and that there is no course selection anywhere for information suppression to be taught. Then why won’t the TBT print the Transportation plan voted unanimously by the Hillsborough county BOCC last month and advanced to the CAC that brings in $8.2 billion dollars, $6.2 Billion going to roads, sidewalks/path/trails, maintenance “and” transit over 25 years and without raising Hillsborough county taxes. The numbers in the plan were verified by the Chief of Finance, Budget Director and Chief economist for the county as accurate in is claims and estimates. The “grass roots plan was not. The answer is obvious to you and the paper and soon will be to the entire population of Hillsborough county. Have a safe and happy 4th of July.

  • Donna Windsor

    July 4, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Thank you for pointing that out. Your post is thoughtful and well stated. I have seen several messages from conservative candidates raising money to those who literally buy the lie. I have noticed that the fundraising narrative is the same just plug in different groups. in 2016 it was Muslims/ISIS or ISIL or Al Quaeda, in 2018 it is Mexicans/MS-13 or Democrats/Militant Left/Snowflakes. They are always a great threat and need to be stopped and can only be stopped with a donation. It is divisive and I just can’t see how you plan to govern and represent all Americans when you campaign on the idea that only half are “real” Americans or “true” Americans and the other half are supposedly destroying America and must be stopped. They are literally campaigning on the promise to deny constitutional rights to Americans and claiming to be defenders of the constitution and patriots.

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