Monday, September 04, 2006


On patriotism

In a recent post on Pharyngula, PZ Myers says this about a commenter:

You've probably never heard of him; he's one of those garden variety self-infatuated creationists who frequented some years ago, using the pseudonym "American Patriot" (which does rather tell you a lot about him right there.)
It's the "which does rather tell you a lot about him right there" part that I want to talk about today.

I've never been one to wave a flag nor to walk down the street singing "God Bless America". I haven't served in the military. I was never a Boy Scout, and never learned the proper protocol for putting the flag away at night. Those are all ways of delaring one's patriotism. There are other ways, too.

I grew up in a time of social change, amid the civil rights marches and the antiwar marches of the Vietnam era. I saw the assassinations of several major political and social leaders, men who certainly qualified as "American Patriots", and I learned that working for change, to better the country and the society, is also a way of declaring one's patriotism.

I am an American Patriot.

And yet the conservative wingnuts have taken that term away from me. As PZ Myers points out, to say that today is to tar yourself with the wingnut brush, to wear a sign that says not that "I love my country" but that "I want to push my country back into the Middle Ages and keep it there." They have turned "patriot" from a term that once united us as Americans to one that divides us into the left and the right. Where there once were liberal patriots there are now liberals and patriots, and there can, it seems, be no conjunction between the two.

I shouldn't be upset; it's really only just a name, a label. Yet I am upset because there's more behind it than just labelling; it's more insidious. The polarization of our society is a terrible thing, a most un-American, un-patriotic thing. If it were just a question of differing political views, that'd be fine, because that's what we're about. But it's a point of control: generalizing here, the left wants people to be free; the right says "freedom", but wants to restrict what people can do, and to limit actual freedom.

I want to take the term "Patriot" back. If you walk around singing "God Bless America", you have to live by the American ideals. Otherwise, you're just whistling "Dixie".


Evan said...

The prase "you have to live by the American ideals" sood out to me in your post.

In a way I believe this is the heart of the matter - the left and right have 2 differing sets of the one true set of American Ideas (and of course anyone who doesn't follow their ideals is out of the mainstream . . .).

Chris said...

I haven't served 20 years in the military so that someone could tell you what to think or that you can't call yourself a patriot.

Oh, by the way, you don't have to do anything special when bringing the flag in for the night. Just be respectful and keep it off the ground. If you keep it illuminated at night you can leave it out. If it's near the porch light for example. Always bring it in during bad weather though.