Thursday, December 1, 2016

Patriotism; a Primer

I really tried – I promise you I really did.  All week long I have been thinking about what I would like my first Holidailies entry to be about.  Something outright creative?  Something holiday-themed since today is the first day of December?  But each and every day, I kept coming back to the one thing I am overwhelmingly feeling most passionate and actually have something to say about: politics and the current state our country is in.

Now, for those of you who do not know me, I will say this up front: I am a middle-of-the-road Democrat.  That means while I lean left, it is not so simple to label me as such since there are policies where my opinion would actually define me as more of a Republican.  So, for any of you out there reading this who habitually disregard, disrespect and/or lump everybody together, please stop reading and wasting my time and yours.  Move on.  Really.  Go back to whatever single news source to which your unquestioning mind leads you.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let me also say that I know better than to try to figure out – at this point – why people voted the way they did.  And more importantly, I know better than to try to get them to acknowledge that they’ve made a very serious mistake.  If they couldn’t see it then, they cannot yet see it now so we will let time play that out.

More interesting to me at this very moment is to talk about Patriotism.  Yes, with a capital “P”. You’ll see why later.  A quick wiki search reveals this definition:

Patriotism is an emotional attachment to a nation which an individual recognizes as their homeland. This attachment, also known as national feeling or national pride, can be viewed in terms of different features relating to one's own nation, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.

What has been troubling me -- especially of late -- is the accusation from many of our fellow citizens, that if a person criticizes our country (on any topic) that one does not love the country.  And therefore, cannot be a patriot.  I take issue with every step of this not-so-logical deduction.  First, a person can criticize the country and still love it.  In fact, one could argue that s/he could love it even more than the complacent patriot because s/he cared enough and took the time to try to improve upon it.  Secondly, does patriotism really = love anyway?  What exactly are we loving?  Go back to the definition: the most we can really love is our personal experience and isn’t that very different depending on who you are – age, socio-economic status, race, sex, education, heck – diet even.   You see what I am saying?

I read an article recently that discusses patriotism in detail (see link below). This article states that there are four kinds of patriotism.  First, there is the Mafia version.  This is the kind that embraces only strength – not goodness, or ideals.  The second type of patriotism has more of a national pride flavor; it is a belief that America is infallible, inherently good, and a nation that all others should and do look up to.  The third kind connects love of country to ideals.  However, this definition acknowledges the disparity between America’s ideals and its reality.  The last category of patriotism looks more like anti-patriotism:  this group focuses only on the failures of America to live up to its ideals – basically viewing the country as one big disappointment.

Now back to that capital “P”.  I feel like the people whose definition of patriotism is either the Mafia version or the national pride version consider themselves Patriots like it’s some sort of third political platform or a club or team or better yet, a religion.  They and they alone own it. 

It is my observation that the persons who scream the loudest “if you don’t love this country and love it as it is, get out” regard themselves as Patriots.  Literally. On paper.  Using that word exactly. They looooovvvvee this country with all of their hearts (well, at least whatever it is they think they know the country to be). They worship the American flag and scorn anybody who would dare light it afire.  (Hello freedoms of speech and expression?) Just for the record, it makes me very uncomfortable and upset if I see video of someone doing that but my go-to reaction is wondering what the heck made them so upset that they felt the need to do that, not ‘how dare they do that’.  That attitude is a very dangerous one. 

What I have been mulling over here really is a recognition that we, as Americans, are not even starting in the same place with the same definition.  Who are we?  What do we stand for?  What do we want?  Big questions that are getting harder than ever to answer.  I could wrap this up nicely with some platitude, but I think it is more honest to leave the reader hanging because that is reality right now – we are hanging.