Too many people (especially among our political “leaders”) wish to claim a proprietary interest in the idea of “patriotism” and suggest that only their supporters can be considered as such. But, ideas like that suggest a complete misunderstanding of the real notion of patriotism. Personally, I’m rather fond of the way Mark Twain put it when he said that, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” I like this because I believe it agrees with the belief which I developed during the Vietnam War era as I watched my government engage in activities which I was pretty sure were, at best, unwise, and probably should have been considered criminal.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my country. It’s a place where I can trace my roots back to about 150 years before the idea of the United States ever occurred to anyone. But, I am also aware that our “experiment” in democracy has not been without a good many flaws, often of a serious nature. Some of those flaws have cost me some friends in Vietnam and other places. Some of those flaws really deny my country any right to claim that it actually stands for what we have always SAID it did. Yes, I am fully aware that, as a country, we are NOT and never have been perfect.
Some would use that statement to suggest that I’m not a “true” patriot. I disagree. I do so because I firmly believe that only by acknowledging that we have not been perfect; that we have made mistakes; that we have not always done the truly “right” thing; do we have a chance of actually taking the steps to make things better. The fact is that you can’t “Make America Great Again” unless it’s been “great” before, and a close look at our history would suggest that while we, as a nation, have done a lot (some of it even pretty good), we still have some challenges to achieve the “greatness” we aspire to.
And, in fact, looking at history with the idea of correcting mistakes and righting wrongs is NOT all that uncommon a practice. Virtually ALL religions (I think) have some version of this concept, although they may call it different things and it may take a variety of specific forms. Politically, I would suggest that it is a necessary step towards resolving the challenges of creating the “more perfect union” which citizens of the US claim is the driving force behind our politics. How can THAT be “UNpatriotic?”
I’m sorry to say that the past half-dozen years of US politics have been disappointing to me. Actually, it probably goes back further than that, back to the point at which far too many people started to decide that politics was REALLY just about “winning and losing.” For those people, “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing,” as Vince Lombardi is quoted as having said. I would suggest, however, that Lombardi was not talking about politics, but about the game of football; not the same thing, at all. I think the difference lies in the reason one plays the game. Of course everyone WANTS to win any game, but when the “game” ceases to be a game and becomes one’s validation as a person (or, perhaps, the means for one to accumulate money, power, and influence) then it’s not just a contest; and it may well become a need to destroy anyone who might “defeat” you. And, that does NOT seem to fit in with the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence and our other founding documents. After all, how does one accomplish destroying the opposition?
Well, short of actual violence, the lessons of history suggest it’s by making people afraid, then giving them someone (your opponent) to blame for causing that fear. Or, as suggested below:
Case in point, I’ve heard that our neighbors to the North (Canada) have become concerned about too many people from the US trying to emigrate to their country due to the mostly self-inflicted problems of the US, and they may be trying to do something to discourage such shenanigans, but I don’t know that for certain. Still, I did run across this picture of Canadians building a wall a while ago….
Other folks, from various places, seem to have decided that the best way to deal with the acrimonious state of US politics is to simply walk away and ignore the whole damn thing. In fact, some, apparently, had that idea back a few years back…
Probably, the first step towards resolving the issues which face us may be to consider if Sherlock Holmes, as pastiched by Loren D. Estleman, was correct when he complained about the lack of criminal imagination in England, saying, “There isn’t a criminal with imagination left on our island. They have all emigrated to America to run for public office.” If this observation is true, we have to find some better people to fill these positions.
Whether Holmes was right, or not, however, the first thing to actually do is to resolve to become better voters during the next election. That would seem to require each of us to seek out candidates willing to look beyond name-calling and “trust me” sorts of policies and accept the fact that issues are NOT always all that simple and that progress may require making difficult and, sometimes, unpopular choices. The important consideration is whether our selected candidate will support the rule of law and the principles of our Constitution even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. I can think of no better way to celebrate our nation than by VOTING. Make sure you are registered, get informed about the candidates and their principles, and VOTE. It’s the patriotic things to do! And, it’s probably the most meaningful way to celebrate our Independence!
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows