Tuesday, November 30, 2004


So I was just in a little conversation on a message board recently about the nature of patriotism, and it got me thinking. Bear with me here for a little bit.

There's a lot of people who feel very strongly that patriotism should be taught. They feel that "American" virtues (whatever that means) should be instilled in their children just like knowledge of spelling, grammar, and mathematics. They should know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart (even though most people, I believe, don't really know what it says or means, just like the Lord's Prayer; it's just said by rote now), they should automatically stand and remove their hat the the first hint of the Star Spangled Banner, and they should start chants of "USA! USA!" whenever they feel like it (Ok, that last one may be stretching it, but not too much). But is this really patriotism?

Is someone who's told to be proud of their country really proud of their country? Or are they just doing what they were told when they were young and not questioning it? The same argument, I feel, could be made for religion, though I won't go into that now. How can you claim patriotism as a part of yourself, as one of your virtues, unless you've come to it on your own terms?

And the incorporation of all these symbols in expressing patriotism is just silly, in my opinion. Just because your lapel has an American flag doesn't mean that you're more American than I am. Just because both doors AND the antenna of your SUV have American flags on them (along with the "These Colors Don't Run" bumper sticker, most likely) doesn't make you more American, more patriotic than me. I know more than just the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner (how many people do you figure know that there's more than one?). I know all the words to "God Bless America" (Hint: the song doesn't start with "God bless America..."). I know all the verses to "America the Beautiful," "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." They even choke me up, on occasion, if I'm thinking of the right thing. I've sang a solo in an Irving Berlin medley at the Convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I have a t-shirt with no sleeves that has a flag on it and says "United We Stand." Am I more patriotic than most other people I know?

Ann Coulter would say yes.

I say no.