Patriotism

Reading over on W’s blog the other day (in specific I’m referring to “Of Patriotism And Knee-jerk Reactions”) and thought I’d toss a few thoughts up on patriotism, freedom of speech, and other good things…

He mentions a tale of an 8 year old boy who received a suspension from school for substituting his own words to the Pledge of Allegiance. He changed the words to reflect his love for Star Trek.

There’s several emotions coursing through my veins as I read W’s entry about this. The first one is indignation that someone would be so disrespectful as to modify our solemn oath of love-for-country. The second, following closely on the heels of the first, is WHY SHOULD THAT MAKE ME ANGRY? I imagine that the 8 year old wasn’t being spiteful or disrespectful. It’s, as W said, not a violation of the original spirit of unity and justice. It’s a young man’s attempt at creativity. What is wrong with his version of things? The first Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Does that only apply to things that aren’t related to our history? Would people be so up-in-arms if he would have modified the lyrics to a popular song? As a country that so vehemently champions our First Amendment right to say what you think and feel with no legal repercussions (ideally anyway), why does an 8 year old’s modifications anger some and not others?

I think it might be because our national pride is slipping away from us and there are people who don’t want to see that happen. On one hand, I believe that they are right. For many people, the Pledge of Allegiance is meant to signify our desire and duty to put our dedication hats on and show our support for the United States of America, no matter what may come our way. Solidarity, unity, and togetherness. These are the words that come to mind when you truly think of the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance. Come on, think about it. The PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. We are giving our vocal confirmation of being supportive of this fine country. Day by day, the words mean less and less to a good majority of Americans. War is not what it used to be and this latest conflict with Iraq has put a bad taste in our mouths. On the other hand, however, I agree with W when he says “Rather than suspending this boy, the school should be applauding his creativity and use his adaptation as a springboard for a discussion of how democracy might evolve and exist several hundred years from now.” Why not celebrate the fact that the boy ‘gets’ the underlying concept of the Pledge? He understands the fact that it’s about unity, he is making it work on his own level. What’s wrong with that?

I was raised, like most children, with a healthy respect for patriotism. The word itself was an abstract idea, full of social mores and rituals that meant nothing to me as a child. As I grew older, even in high school, it still didn’t mean as much to me as it should. It was only when I was in the Navy and realized what courage was, and started reading tales of World War II valor that I began to see what patriotism was. It wasn’t just one in a series of buzzwords, and all of those rituals have a meaning.

What is unfortunate however, is that in these times where free will and individualism run rampant through American society, the concept of patriotism and love of country is an inconvenience imposed on us, especially the younger ones among us.

I’m not really sure how we can get this turned around, honestly.

Maybe President Bush has put a bad taste in our mouths with his “with us or AGAINST us” mantra in regards to the war.

Maybe people don’t want to ruffle any feathers by reminding their children as they’re growing up that people HAVE died in protecting this country and continue to do so to this day.

The concept of people “dying for your freedom” was always an abstract concept to me as a younger man. I’d always used the silent argument (when I say “silent” I mean the debate taking place in my own head) that there was no “Red Dawn” action going on. There were no foreign soldiers racing thru our streets, leaving destruction and mayhem in their wake. How can you tell me that soldiers are dying for MY freedom? My freedom is just fine, thank you. I felt that way for the longest time. In truth though, there truly ARE soldiers dying to make sure that those same foreign invaders don’t make their way over here to run amok thru the streets. It’s a preemptive action, taken to keep other people in check. If the fine soldiers of this country didn’t keep an eye on things, and occasionally give their lives in the process, then there’s no telling how different America might be. Would we be a superpower still? Would we be speaking a different language due to a foreign takeover? Would we become a third world country?

I’ve been pulled away all morning long here and haven’t had a chance to really “finish” up what I was saying. I’m running out of time though so let me wrap it up for now.

Let’s get to the bottom line here. On this upcoming Fourth of July go ahead and do the following;

Light off your firecrackers, drink your beer, fly your flag proudly.

But, let’s remember the reasons behind all of it. Patriotism is an ongoing responsibility and vigilance, needing to be nurtured. Don’t let the words like patriotism, duty, valor, and courage become just words. They have meanings, please don’t let those meanings become lost in all the fireworks.
posted Fri, 07-01-05

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