Monday, July 07, 2008

Patriotism

I am a liberal. I've never served in the military, think going into Iraq was the biggest mistake this country has made since the Philippines, and cannot think about the virtues of this country without also thinking about its sins, of which hubris has always been the principle one.

And I also love this country fiercely. I teared up last night watching a pair of Marines on TV lowering the US flag and gentle but crisply folding it into a triangle, as I've done so many times myself. I was so proud of being in the color guard of our Scout troop, and worked damn hard to learn the proper way to hold, fold, and care for the flag.

Nothing pisses me off more than an ignorant and shallow patriotism, particularly when it escalates into a game of "I love my country more than you do." There was a little deli just a few block off campus in Kirksville that I hated to patronize, even though the food was good, the prices were low, and the location couldn't be beat. I hated eating there because to get in I had to walk between two flags displayed at ground level that they flew day and night, rain or shine, but never lit and never took down, but left hanging there to literally rot on the flag pole until they were tattered and faded, not from use, but from neglect.

I wanted to take those flags down and burn them, as that's what I was taught to do, but the TV was filled with vacuous baritones calling for an amendment to the constitution outlawing flag burning.

Now, I'll admit that when I teared up last night, I had my daughter sleeping in my lap, was more than a little bit sleep deprived, and it doesn't take much to get me teary eyed these days. But I want to raise her in a country with its ideals intact, and, hopefully, most of its worst misdeeds in its past. And I want to teach her that loving her country requires knowing its mistakes so you can help keep it on the straight and narrow, and that love of country, like any other love, takes work, and isn't just something you can hang up once and leave to rot.

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