how patriotic are you?

It’s been several weeks now since I asked several friends and family members if they’d help me out with a blog post about patriotism. Almost all those I asked sent me something to include. It’s taken me this long to get my own thoughts together. And honestly, I still don’t know what I’m going to write.

But here goes.

According to Merriam-Webster, patriotism is defined this way:

patriotism noun \ˈpā-trē-ə-ˌti-zəm

: love that people feel for their country

:  love for or devotion to one’s country
Using this definition, I would say that yes, I am patriotic. While I do not fly a flag outside of my house, I  have zero problem with those people and businesses who do. I feel patriotic. I love my country. I am happy to call the United States home.

But thinking about this topic and talking with others has left me with more questions than answers.

Am I proud to be American? And isn’t it the same question, just phrased differently?

proud adjective \ˈprad\

: very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you know or are related to, etc. : feeling pride

: causing someone to feel very happy and pleased : causing a feeling of pride

: having or showing the attitude of people who think that they are better or more important than others : having or showing too much pride

I think I am proud, but only to a certain extent. I certainly don’t think being American makes me better than someone who is Canadian, South African, German or any other nationality. It’s absurd to think that way. I can honestly say I’d be proud to be from almost anywhere I may have come from in this world. I am just as proud to say I have German and English and Welsh blood in me as I am to say I’m American. I am proud to be the person I am, made up of all the bits and pieces that I am. From all over.

I almost always tear up watching the US team announced at the Olympics. I think it’s awesome when someone from this country does something amazing that has the world on the edge of its seat. I think we need more of those moments. More moments like the US Men’s Soccer Team brought to America … and to the world.

That said, I do understand how flag waving and chanting has led to horrific outcomes around the world at times in our history. But to point to the actions of others in the past and judge ALL current actions by that standard is not always fair. I don’t have any issue with people in the USA displaying flags to show their loyalty and love of country. I think it’s a beautiful thing that brings us together as neighbors and citizens. It’s love of country, not hate of others. There’s a definite difference. But I absolutely do have issue with patriotism and flag waving that is surrounded by death and destruction, as is the case with war. I remember that everyone waving flags and chanting USA! after September 11 was scary to me. I am not a believer that killing others is the right way to settle disputes. Killing to stop killing?! It makes no sense to me. I was NOT one of the people chanting and cheering when American troops killed Osama bin Laden. I was sickened by the entire thing. It pisses me off to see that. It pisses me off that we kill innocent people during war and then do little to comfort and care for our own soldiers that we sent out to do such inconceivable things in the name of “freedom.” It angers me when people say we are the best nation because we are “free.” Um, do your homework, folks. We aren’t the only free nation in the world. I hate the term “leader of the free world.” Our country is not better than yours. It’s just bigger and louder (in most cases).

So yeah, some shit pisses me off. But this doesn’t mean I’m unpatriotic or anti-American. (I should be allowed to express the things that bother me. It’s part of what makes us free, after all, right?)

But does the average American wave a flag or wear red, white and blue with the thought in their heads that this means we are “better” than everyone else? I don’t think so. But maybe I’m wrong. I’d like to think we’re beyond that. Maybe many people are not.

So, for fun I decided to do a little research. Just how patriotic are we as a nation? How patriotic are the Germans? Canadians? Irish?

There’s this, from a 2008 Forbes article, citing facts gathered from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC):

Australia, a nation-state that gained independence from Great Britain in 1901, follows the United States in the most-patriotic rankings, with Austria, which dates back to the ninth century but took its current shape at the end of World War II, close behind.

And, on the other end of things:

The least patriotic country, according to the survey, is East Germany. Although that Soviet-occupied sovereignty hasn’t existed since Germany was reunified in 1990, NORC conducted its first survey in 1985. To maintain consistency, Smith says, the survey is still administered among the same regions.

I may be happy to be American, I may feel patriotic at times, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy with everything happening in this country. By no means do I think it should be OK to carry guns onto school property while it’s still illegal for my gay friends to marry. I don’t think the government should have any say in what I do with my body. It pisses me off that our government seems to be nothing short of broken. I am sickened by many large corporations and how many of them hold the strings to our puppet politicians. I’m sickened by the lack of movement to do better. To clean up our planet. To get healthier. To be nicer to each other.

But at the end of the day, I feel good to be here. To be American. To be able to write this and not have my hands chopped off. I feel lucky to have the opportunities I have here, and understand that there are a lot of places I could live and have similar opportunities. But I can say I’m proud we are a nation built from immigrants who took a chance and created something beautiful, even if it does have some tarnish and serious scratches. We will continue to work at it. We are still young. We have a lot to learn, for sure.

Now, I’d like to include thoughts from my friends who chimed in on this topic. I appreciate everyone’s personal thoughts and the fact that you were willing to share with us all. We all have different backgrounds, different political beliefs, different stories to tell. I am proud to call you my friends and my sister. Much love, and happy July 4.

IMG_0241

photo courtesy of Kelly Grau 🙂

***

Curtis Billue

Patriotic, yes and no. I love my country and am proud to be from this country. A little kid waving a flag on the Fourth of July is okay. Or the pledge of allegiance at a game, okay (more habit than anything). Athletes draping flags over them after winning a race in the Olympics is okay. I support soldiers, yes (wars, no). I’m proud to be American and embarrassed at the same time. I don’t always agree with our international policies and how we treat other countries or our national policies of equality and justice, but I love the freedoms, safety and opportunities this country has to offer.

However, unchecked “patriotism” or “nationalism” can and has led to many injustices, wars and crimes against humanity all in the name of nationalism or patriotism. I can’t condone the personal and national aggressions and acts of atrocities all done for the love of country. History (as well as the present) is full of flag waving nationalism that led to ethnic cleansing and government oppression.

Patriotism is like any religion, can be used as a positive and uplifting reaffirmation in your love of where you feel home is, or it can be a negative and coercive mechanism to manipulate and destroy others for more nefarious goals.

***

Joedy Isert

I am patriotic, and I am proud to be an American. That does not mean that I am always proud of America or that I believe the stars and stripes should be hoisted in every courtyard in every country of the world. I believe in the ideals of America – humility, humanity, equality, liberty, justice, freedom – but these ideals are just that ideals, and we as a nation rarely live up to them. There are times – in the wake of the Joplin tornadoes – we see our ideals come into full play, but we cannot count on disasters elevating our ideals, as in during and in the wake of Katrina, we saw few of those ideals in play. These are not, cannot be, convenient ideals. They must be present for this to truly be the America of our forefathers, an America poised to help a complex and chaotic world, not try to establish it as a domain. I worked with an international organization whose founder took very seriously the presentation of America’s flag. In too many cases, he said, we have come as occupiers, as guests who overstayed our welcome or who sought to affect unwanted change. He was a man who respected – truly respected – cultures and heritage and honor, and I learned much from him. So I like to see the flag, but only where it represents the symbol it was intended to be – an open place where all are welcome – beliefs, cultures, national origins, races, creeds – the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” we once clung so proudly to. So, yes, I am a patriot and patriotic, but I don’t blindly believe that America is first, best, the only. We are one, and we share a wonderful and amazing world with billons of wonderful and amazing people and countless cultures, and we are still young and have much to learn. And I am proud to be American because we are the country of Lincoln, of Jefferson, of King and Kennedy, of Jackie Robinson and Susan B. Anthony, of Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Earhart, Katherine Graham and Sally Ride. Of Ben Franklin, Elvis Presley, Billy Graham, Louis Armstrong, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett … of explorers, musicians, scientists, rabble rousers, hell raisers and world changers. Just like every other country on the planet. We have much to be proud of, but we have much in our past that must forever give us pause – My Lai, waterboarding, Kent State, the press on freedoms in the “war on terror,” Wounded Knee and so many others. Proud to be an American and at times, outraged to be an American as well.

***

Kelly Grau

Why am I patriotic and what does patriotism mean to me? When I actually started thinking about it, it was pretty easy to come up with answers. There are a lot, but I will stick to the main ones I thought of first.

Several of my close family members served in WWII – my Grandfather, 4 Great Uncles, my Uncle was a Marine, and my fiancée is currently in the Army, and has been to Iraq, Afghanistan, and every other corner of the world, to defend our freedom. I proudly fly our US flag at all times. I do it to honor those who serve/served our country, never as a “rah rah or in your face” gesture.  There is no amount of flag flying or chanting “USA” that could ever thank these folks enough for what they do and have done to create what a great country we have today.

I cherish the fact that I can go to bed every night knowing I am free, because of the brave veterans we have. When I told my fiancée that I have not directly contributed to the formation, or the greatness of America, he said that anyone who thanks a veteran, pays for their bill at the IHOP, gives to Wounded Warriors, volunteers at a veteran’s hospital, etc., is contributing in their way. It’s not glorifying war in any way, and I’m certainly not flying my flag to let everyone know that I like everything our government does. Those who serve do it for the love of their country, not because of what some politician thinks is right or wrong. And sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong.

This past June 6, I watched the D-Day services and cried at every one. Thousands died that very day to keep the entire world from tyranny…….and they succeeded. Not glorifying, not liking it, just thanking them in my head for doing what 99% of everyone else would never do. That’s why I fly my flag, that’s why I love my country, and ESPECIALLY love my veterans.

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Ryan Ewing

Am I patriotic? Yes! Why am I patriotic? The common one word answer is freedom, but I feel this is just a platitude for acceptance by the masses.  For me the answer is flexibility.  Our constitution was written to be flexible, and we can amend it as needed.  We can pass laws, repeal laws, and even judge laws unconstitutional.  The problem comes when we flex the wrong way.  In my opinion, the country has been flexed in the wrong direction for over 30 years (most of my life).  Should this affect my patriotism?  I think as long as I have hope — hope for a better education system and more informed/educated electorate — hope for equality — hope for more fair tax structure and a system that values manufacturing over wealth — hope for a stronger social safety net — hope for a higher minimum wage — hope that white collar criminals will go to jail instead of paying a fine — hope for PROGRESS, I will be patriotic.  But the day my hope is squashed, I may be moving to Canada (though it is damn cold there).

***

Kristi Stainback

I’ve never been afflicted with much school pride–don’t care to attend a High School reunion, have never been to a University homecoming but I do feel proud to be an American. I’d like to make the distinction that it’s not a “Murica,” let’s all have guns and all immigrants are evil sort of pride.

I can understand a little of the “why be proud of where you’re from?”–I didn’t build this nation. To be proud of this country in an honest, realistic way means you have to acknowledge that we stole it from other people. That just because they lived differently from Europeans doesn’t mean they were lesser beings. You have to acknowledge that we built this free country with slave labor and stole the freedom and destroyed the family lineages of thousands of people. I didn’t build this nation but I owe some responsibility to those who were destroyed in the building of it.

I squirm when faced with the question of whether America is the greatest country on earth. Make no mistake, I believe the saying that if you’re born in America you’ve already won the lottery. If you’re white you’ve won it twice over. We have opportunity here that some countries only dream of. I certainly think we have done great things. We have saved people, we have shown mercy to our enemies, we have promoted democracy around the world (and sometimes it wasn’t even because of oil). But there are things that I care deeply about that disappoint me about America. Hypocrisy exists everywhere but it saddens me how much rhetoric you hear about saving “the family” and then no support is given to back it up. I hate how corporation’s dollars mean more than our health and rights. I hate that there are soda machines in schools because schools need the revenue they get from poisoning our kids with sugar. I hate that women don’t have paid maternity leave–pregnancy is treated like an illness and you’re suddenly cured when the baby comes out and should be ready to return to work. This is getting off on a tangent so I’ll leave it there except to say I wish our kids, their education and health were more important than Coke’s profits and new bombs for the military.

I hate the divisiveness that’s going on right now. Religous/secular. Republican/Democrat. The rise of fundamental Christianity seems to me to mirror the rise of fundamental Islamic beliefs. I feel like it all started with 9/11–let’s fight crazy religious tyranny with our brand of religious tyranny. People mock muslims for being intolerant of other religions and treating women badly and then turn around and do their own versions of that in America. (And they are so fucking blind about it. Take the stone from your eye people.) I’m hoping the religious right is so uppity right now because it’s their last gasp before we find a new level of sanity. I’m not particularly political but what’s going on with our government is ridiculous. They are failing us. They are collecting salaries to do nothing. They are not working together. They are the worst of the worst undisciplined children on the playground who cannot figure out how to share. There’s a breaking point coming and it scares me.

I hate how the minimum wage hasn’t gone up in a decade but CEO salaries have skyrocketed in that time. The American dream is being destroyed for the majority of its people. How can we have such a rise of religious fervor along with such a rise in greed? Something is very wrong here. The poor are blamed for being poor while the rich get a wink and a nod for finding as many loopholes as possible in the tax code.

I hate Fox News.

I love America–the mountains, forests and lakes; the different accents of the people; the kindness of strangers; the innovation of our inventors. And everyone knows we have the best music. But I find myself scratching my head a lot about what to do to make things better. So I guess it’s like how you can love your family but be ashamed of them at the same time. You can think your kids are awesome but groan when they belch in public. You still see the potential in them and you hope one day they’ll grow up to change the world and that you’re still around to see it.

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