I seem to have lost something very important to me. For decades, three quarters of a century, I had a patriotic pride in our country, drilled into me by a Marine father who served on Iwo Jima and two uncles, one Navy and one Army. We marched in parades, put playing cards in our spokes held by a clothespin to ride in and out of the marching groups in every Memorial Day parade. We were taught to take off our hats or place our right hand over our hearts as the American Flag passed by. The flag was proudly displayed outside our house every national holiday, brought in at night if not illuminated from below! And always folded, placed safely in its storage spot never ever touching the floor. I continued this tradition until just recently.
That patriotic pride has been fading gradually but recently accelerating to the point of “why bother!” On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, I put it down and can’t find it! I couldn’t see it through my crying jags, my disbelief, my head shaking and don’t know where to look for it anymore. My dad convinced my brother and I that we lived in the best country in the world. He fought to make that true. I loved the thought of that but somehow I can no longer accept that idea. How could a country that regularly shoots its own citizenry be the best country? Let alone murders it’s own children. 19 second, third and fourth grade kids and two teachers murdered in their school! I’m a little sensitive having taught elementary school for 35 years and wondering what we would have done had it happened to us, to my friends and colleagues, and my students. And I cried! And at that point I realized I had lost that very precious thing- pride in my country. We’ve been here too many times before and we do nothing to stop the carnage. We could, but we choose not to, over and over again.
My pride has been slipping away more and more of late. So many things are anathema to being the best country. So many citizens are uninsured, great countries provide that for their citizens. All makes and models of citizens are equally revered in great countries- all nationalities, races, genders, gays, straights all revered equally- that is what makes a country great. Books aren’t banned and history isn’t erased due to discomfort in great countries! Women control their own bodies in great countries, and words aren’t outlawed in states in an attempt to erase people who make others uncomfortable. Laws aren’t passed to make it harder for certain parts of the citizenry to vote in great countries!
Our thoughts and prayers are fine but won’t prevent the next shooting from occurring. We have to take action. When I misplace my keys and just sit on the couch my praying to find them won’t help until I get up off my fat ass to look for them. Praying that another school, church, mosque, synagogue, grocery store, concert won’t be shot up will do nothing if we don’t get our legislators to protect us first and their corporate sponsors after! A good guy with a gun does not prevent a massacre, more guns in the population does not reduce the massacres. We know what to do, we must convince our representatives to DO IT! And do it NOW!!!
I hope I can find my lost patriotic pride. But right now, with the history we have with literally avoiding doing anything to help, I am afraid pride is a lost art in America.
George has misplaced his patriotism, because America seems to be a disappointment. Yet he fondly recounts the patriotic tradition of his family as he grew up in the fifties and early sixties – a time that produced McCarthyism; a time when all abortion was illegal; a time when homosexuality was illegal; a time that where segregation and voter suppression were default conditions; a time where fewer people had health insurance; a time when there was no gay or interracial marriage. Honestly, I’m surprised that George looks back on this time as his incubator of patriotism. It was a time that highlighted the antithesis of George’s progressive goals. He was patriotic then, but not now?
Maybe it’s the word. I think patriotism is a loaded term. People use it to justify all sorts of opinions and actions. However, if meant in the simplest sense, it’s about loyalty to a society that provides safety to its citizens and allows opportunity for self-realization.
Clearly, the carnage in Uvalde showcases an inability to provide safety to our most vulnerable — all those sweet kids! In that sense, loyalty to a government that does not take the steps to effectively prevent such episodes does strain credulity.
But patriotism is a relationship and a commitment – a commitment to pursue continual improvement. You don’t just throw in the towel and walk away. Gun violence is a problem of our own making and we can fix it.
When George was a kid, he fell in love with the ideals that America stood for. Perhaps he didn’t read the fine print that it is a work in progress. But we’re all grown up now and realize that our compact depends upon putting in the work to achieve a more effective republic – that means listening to diverse voices and differing opinions, electing action-oriented representatives, and navigating solutions which do the greatest good for the greatest number. This is constructive patriotism – and I don’t think you have lost that feeling, George.
Patriotism by Segun Adekoya MMabogaje
A man of the heart you are!
A man that agreed with the earth,
With all his being,
To love, cherish and be,
Faithful to his home
The home that houses you
At the time of plenty,
And supports you during
The time of scarcity.
Reciprocal is the law,
For a citizen that gets;
All his rights from the,
Country he is a citizen of
By birth and other ways,
To be ready to be patriotic
Pay back in the same coin,
The dividend he has enjoyed,
The right enjoyed,
In form of duties
George’s loss of faith and pride in our country is understandable. Of the civilized countries in the world we are among the youngest, least experienced, and fastest developing. And, as with newly forming collectives where growth exceeds measured practice, we will stumble and fall, move forward and backward, and seek to gain our footing while on unchartered ground. We are in a time of instantaneous – worldwide information sharing. There is little to no time to process and integrate what we hear and see into manageable bites that can then be tied to prior experience from which to make sense of it all. We act and react often in ignorance, confusion, and with misinformation. Remaining patriotic and maintaining a sense of pride amid such chaos is hard to achieve. Unless we blindly follow others, it is hard to bring our authentic thinking to each and every event and know whether a decision or policy or behavior is patriotic or not.
As Wal said, we are a work in progress. We need to recognize that in order to move forward we sometimes must step back. We need to understand that what is so clearly right and moral and best for our country appears so through our filtered eyes. Other viewpoints don’t necessarily mean those that oppose don’t care. Each opinion-holder has their own feeling about what is needed and important for the good of our nation and claim their beliefs and actions reflect true patriotism. Somehow, we must find ways to stop the divisive talk and begin to listen to each other with the intention of finding common ground. Only then will we regain our footing and move, together, toward building the country each of us will be proud to call home.
“Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Adlai Stevenson II