Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The word "patriotism" doesn't really have a definite meaning after all. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I'm struggling with what it is.

Does it mean that you defend your country to the hilt? Or does it mean you criticize it when it starts acting up? Is patriotism being a yes-man, or speaking truth to power?

Where is the line? Fred D. Thompson spoke at tonight's RNC about John McCain and took a swipe at Barack Obama, saying (paraphrasing) that Obama basically gave a speech apologizing to the rest of the world for our shortcomings. Is it better to defend our country when it is as screwed up as it is now? Or should we acknowledge what's wrong and try and fix it?

If our country is so bad, then why does Obama love it so much? And if our country is so great, then why is McCain trying to reform it?

If you ask me, it's time we started taking a good, long look in the mirror and snap out of our narcissism.

This country CAN be great. It isn't now. It just isn't. Things may have been worse here (they talk about 1968 a lot) but they haven't been this bad in my own lifetime. Our economy is in the tank, we are dispised around the world, inflation is hitting all walks of life, and all our companies are being bought out by foreign competitors.

Also, I think it's great to be proud of your country, but do we constantly have to call ourselves "number one"? We can believe we're number one, we can hold ourselves to a high moral standard. But do we have to constantly throw it in the face of every other country that their country isn't as good as ours? No wonder everyone hates us.

I look at our tendencies to be jingoistic blowhards about our own superiority, and compare it to the fans of the Yankees and the Patriots. (Yes, I'm trying to piss everyone off.) For you see, for many years these two teams have ruled their respective sports, often winning their divisions and making their respective championship games. They are empirically the best teams of the last decade in each of their sports.

But when these teams are on top, you hear nothing but "Yankee Universe" and "19-0" and "Count the Rings!" and "Humble Pie" and all sorts of self-aggrandizement. It's one thing for these two teams to be dominant year-in and year-out, but it's another to have to listen to their fans yammer on about it all year long.

I feel like other countries feel the same about us. We are constantly saying that we are "the greatest nation in the world" -- or if you are a bimbo like Sean Hannity, it's "the greatest best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth!" But is our constant repetition of this fact to make other countries jealous? Or is it an "I'm good enough/smart enough/doggone it people like me?" Daily Affirmation? Either way, it seems a bit beneath us.

Do we have to wave the flag and shout "U.S.A.!" to show that we actually love this country? Or do we live our lives and behave ourselves in a way befitting of the greatest citizens of the greatest country? I have never been outside North America, but I honestly cannot imagine that any other country in this world exists with the opportunity, innovation and creativity of this one. Of course I know there is a lowest common denominator element here, but I'd rather have that common denominator have a chance and find a voice than to endure the hegemony of elitism. (We choose intellectualism because we prefer it, not because we must.)

When we see the arrogance of France, we think of them as stuck-up a-holes. Yet I'm sure they see us the same way. Just because we are "right" doesn't make our behavior less odious.

I would never want to live in any other country besides this one. Not Ireland, not Canada, not anywhere. But I can keep it to myself. Just because I don't go outside with a megaphone doesn't mean I love it less than you do. I don't have to drape myself in the Stars and Stripes to show you my love for this country. And just because I'm not proud of some of our country's dealings* doesn't mean that I wouldn't defend our way of life.

But we need to get off this name-calling kick where we are questioning others' patriotism because, in-effect, we don't agree on the definition in the first place.

After all, patriotism is not a celebration of a multi-colored flag, nor of an abstract concept of a national entity, but a celebration of a country's people. And when we attack each other over petty crap like that, we give ourselves less reasons to celebrate ourselves, and therefore less reasons to be patriotic.

*The Iraq War, the Valerie Plame Scandal, the Alberto Gonzales U.S. Attorney firings, the pardon of Scooter Libby, the Downing Street Memo, FEMA's response to Katrina, Karl Rove saying John McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock, Newt Gingrich's ethics violations, the Southern Strategy, Watergate, Slavery, the Tuskegee Experiment, the Patriot Act, not signing the Kyoto Treaty, My Pet Goat, etc.

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