Emma Green in The Atlantic:
“Nothing is more annoying in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans,” wrote a grumpy Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America after he visited the United States from France during the 1830s. He described a phenomenon he might have called hashtag patriotism, had he been on Instagram:
There is a patriotism which mainly springs from the disinterested, undefinable, and unpondered feeling that ties a man's heart to the place where he was born. This instinctive love is mingled with a taste for old habits, respect for ancestors, and memories of the past; those who feel it love their country as one loves one's father's house. … It is itself a sort of religion; it does not reason, but believes, feels, and acts. Some nations have in a sense personified their country…
This is a helpful way to understand American spirit in the era of the meme: Everyday things, like beer, take on vague symbolic meaning that is almost apolitical—it's comfort in the familiar, a symbol of a place where you instinctively know you belong, regardless of any reservations you might have about it. Flaws and all, this is our nation to claim, our country to mock; it's a meme all of our own, even if it would have annoyed dead, French political philosophers.
Happy birthday, America.