Not everyone will like this magazine. The following people in particular: If you insist that “America is the greatest” country in the world, in all things, even after you are presented with contrary evidence. Anyone who has a “These Colors Don’t Run” bumper sticker. If you are proud of not having a passport. If you’ve ever cluelessly asked why there isn’t a “White History Month.” If your response to “Black Lives Matter” is a tone-deaf “All Lives Matter.” If you support a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. In fact if you wrap yourself in the flag – American or that treasonous one with the X in the middle. If the image you have in your head when you hear the word “American” is always a straight, white man. If you have ever unequivocally supported nuking people “over there.” If in 2002 you actually called French fries “Freedom fries.” If you have ever asked a native born Asian-American “Where are you from?” If you’ve ever told a black American in a surprised tone that “You are so well-spoken.” If you want a border fence built separating the United States from Mexico. If you think America was founded as a Christian nation. If FOX news is your 24/7 background noise. If you’re bellicose. Nationalistic. Xenophobic. Jingoistic.
The following people may possibly like this magazine: If you get pissed off at being an American, but you wouldn’t trade it with anything else. If you stand-up when the national anthem is sung at baseball games but you feel a bit embarrassed about it. If you’d never pretend to be Canadian when traveling abroad but you sometimes still hate to admit that you’re American. If you’ve ever gotten misty during the charge scene in Glory. Or when Sullivan Ballou’s letter is read in Ken Burn’s The Civil War. Or at any point in his baseball documentary. If you understand that the real America might exist in Wasilla Alaska but that it also equally exists in a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar. If you own a copy of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (extra points if it’s on vinyl). If you’ve ever wanted to visit the crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. If you get a bit chocked up when you see immigrants take the oath of citizenship. If you actually (at least sort of) believe in Emma Lazarus’ words on that New Colossus in New York Harbor. If you see no contradiction in liking both country music and hip hop. If you know that Moby-Dick is the greatest novel ever written. If you stop to read historical markers. If you ever get emotional when randomly thinking about Abraham Lincoln. Or when going to the Lincoln Memorial, or the Jefferson Memorial, or Gettysburg, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. If you can’t quite shake the feeling that American exceptionality might be real – while at the same time admitting it doesn’t always mean “exceptionally good” and sadly often means “exceptionally bad.” If you’re one of the roughs, an American.
It is our contention that a magazine like this has needed to exist for a while. There needs to be a home for the complicated patriot, the unlikely patriot. This doesn’t have to do with just taking the word “patriotism” back from the right (though it does in part). This isn’t some sort of New Democrat branding mission, we’re not here to make a shining pamphlet extolling American diversity like a college brochure Photoshopping minority students into photos of the quad. We’re up to something else. The sociologist Robert Bellah believed that the United States had a civil religion that was to be contrasted with that of other nations. Things like the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and so on constituted the sacred scripture of America, and the nation itself is a type of religion. If that’s true – and we think it is – then this is a magazine for the agnostics. Because though we might love it, America is a seriously fucked up place. At our historical moment you see an obscene and increasingly growing gap between the uber-rich and everyone else, black youth get gunned down by the police seemingly continually, and a significant portion of the electorate sits around clambering to see the president’s birth certificate. At the same time our populace has in other ways grown more diverse and more welcoming, the increasing acceptance of gay marriage illustrates America rising up towards its ideals. What can one say? America seems like a pretty good idea – we should try it some time. What Uncle Walt said was true a century and a half ago and it’s true now – we are complicated, we contradict ourselves, we contain multitudes.
-Ed Simon, Editor and Founder
Note: Photo at top is not of Ed Simon, but rather of a bald eagle.