Monday, July 5, 2010

Some brief thoughts on patriotism

Today's the day quite a few Americans, myself included, get to observe the Independence Day holiday and get paid to do nothing all day even though the Declaration of Independence was signed 244 years ago yesterday. I spent the first part of the day in the arguably un-American pursuit of research of a minor scandal involving a Nixon aide for The Downfall Dictionary, then stopped in for a quick visit at the neighborhood bookstore. This was one of the volumes on display:

The one I saw had an endorsement from Glenn Beck. It gives you pause either way.

I'm not sure how accurate the book is, though hopefully they at least know that while Columbus opened the wave of European exploration of the American continents, the origins of the United States as a country lie more in Roanoke Island, Jamestown, and Plymouth. The book alleges that American history has focused on the more negative aspects of the nation, such as racism and slavery and labor disputes and all the rest. The reader reviews run the usual political line with several five-star raves and a good deal of one-star rants, with those in the middle probably making up the more level-headed folks who take in the good and bad parts of the book. And those reviews at least suggest that the book isn't ignoring the bad aspects of American history, and gives something of a comprehensive if right-leaning perspective.

The patriotism people tout today seems to take on the annoying habit of screaming about why The Other Side is unpatriotic rather than saying what they like about the country. The rhetoric can be attributed to the fringe elements on both sides. Conservatives generally characterize liberals as a group of welfare queens, potheads, and weak-kneed pacifists and tree huggers. Liberals can play too, and denounce conservatives as a clan of idiotic rabblerousers, white trash, narcissistic plutocrats, and violent jerks.

The element of truth in both of them is that there are those people on both sides, and they're probably the ones doing the loudest shouting about what patriotism is. For example, Sarah Vowell is a well-versed essayist with a leftist bent which usually goes along well with her more scholarly work, but not all the time. It kind of rankles in The Wordy Shipmates when she makes a jab about how the Puritan vision of America as a "shining beacon on a hill" has been realized through the bright lights of sleep-deprivation methods used against enemy detainees. Which isn't to say most people playing with a full deck shouldn't be irritated when Fox News pundit Sean Hannity gushes about how the United States is the "greatest, best country God has given man on the face of the earth." It's like listening to a closeted man assure himself that tits are just the bee's knees.

Not to give tits a bad name, of course.

Taking the whole "My country right or wrong/love it or leave it" attitude is completely irresponsible, as it basically makes such purveyors live in a happy little bubble of eagles and apple pie. Shrilly shrieking about everything wrong with the country also isn't a very productive way to reach a consensus.

So what's left? I'd like to think we like the country because it's home, because while the ideologues and DMV lines and hundreds of other things can get on our nerves, there's always the friends and family and getaway spots that make it all worthwhile. Love is healthy, and love for country can be a very good thing. As long as it's not trying to equate country with one's own political mindset, because demanding a populace to conform to a single view as a requirement for patriotism is one of those things that truly goes against the American ideal.

The Google Images results for Happy Fifth of July are surprisingly bikini-heavy. So maybe there's more of a patriotism-breasts connection than I anticipated.

1 comment:

  1. I bet you have patriotic breasts.