I have a batch of draft posts on my WordPress site — thoughts I’ve jotted down over the years, ideas that percolated for a time, then went flat. And every now and then (like today) I look them over, delete a few, ponder a few more, and, occasionally (like today) I go, “Eureka!” and know I have my next blog post, nearly done.
And so it is with this one, written originally shortly after the 2020 State of the Union speech.
I’ve sat out the State of the Union speeches (hereafter referred to as SOTUs) for the past three years, the first time I’ve missed them since before high school, with the exception of my two years in the Peace Corps.
It felt the patriotic thing to do.
It’s a word that’s been bandied about alot of late. So I’ve given it some thought. I wonder the number of readers I’ll lose, but here goes.
“Patriotism” is generally defined as a love of one’s country.
“Devotion to and vigorous support of” is actually how Oxford defines it.
The concept strikes me as important, for when we hear cries of “Patriotism” it’s one of the few times the crier expects we are all together, or we certainly should be. America shows her communal colors when patriotism soars.
Then, I think historically.
It was patriotic in 2002 to support President George W going into Iraq, after those WMDs. You remember. We’d been invaded by hijacked commercial jets; our financial district was in chaos, and over 3,000 lives had been lost. For most, invasion seemed understandable. For Woody and me, though, we joined the Peace Corps.
It was patriotic in the 1980s to watch silently as Ronald Reagan decimated our labor unions, slashed funding for the Arts, and turned his back on AIDS research. But the people loved Reagan. He spoke their language; his words made them feel good. He was patriotic.
It was patriotic in the early 1970s to declare, “Love it or leave it” when referring to those gathering in the streets to protest a war half a world away that no one really understood.
It was patriotic in the 1960s to turn our headlights on as a visible sign you supported the US’s policies and practices in Vietnam.
It was patriotic in the 1940s and early ’50s to turn in a co-worker or neighbor or friend suspected of having communist sympathies.
It was patriotic during WWII to support the encampment of all Japanese Americans into internment camps and not think a thing of it when their property was confiscated and not returned. “America first,” after all.
You get the idea.
Patriotism is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, the last refuge of a scoundrel.
In an uncharacteristic sense of the collective (Americans do tend to emphasize the Individual), if we feel patriotic, we expect everyone to agree with us.
Is it a defensive posture? Do we dare not stand alone in our “devotion to and vigorous support of” our country?
How easy it has become to “other” another.
For more on this topic, I recommend an article in Medium by Wes O’Donnell, “Patriotism vs. Nationalism: What’s the Difference.” (August 29, 2019).
How about you? What’s your take on patriotism?
I’ve added a clip of me reading the Introduction. It’s on my Book Page, at the very bottom. It says 16 minutes, but that’s because I forgot to turn it off after the 6 minutes it took me and I don’t know how to edit it down.
I’m participating in Amazon Affiliates, so your purchase through my website will enable me to make a wee bit more and not increase your cost at all. The above link takes you to the LEAPFROG page on my website (not yet accessible directly) where you can learn more about the book. To skip that page and go directly to the book’s page on Amazon, click here. Thank you.