Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Patriotism

A few days ago a I had a revelation about patriotism. I saw a car flying a Spurs (the San Antonio basketball team) flag (you know the kind that attach to an antenna) with an American flag bumpersticker and another bumpersticker that said "I support our troops and our president." I realized that for a good many people in this country, patriotism is something akin to being a sports fan. They support a sports team because it's affiliated with their alma mater (or where they wish they'd gone to school) or the city or state in which they live. They support America because they were born here. It's as simple as that. Being a sports fan is about cheering for your team, not questioning your teams' decisions and patriotism for these people doesn't involve questioning our government's decisions. It's "my country right or wrong" no matter what. Anyone who doesn't exhibit the same rah rah go America attitude, and especially anyone who actually disagrees with the president or dares to suggest that our government did something wrong, is, in Ann Coulter's words, a traitor.

It's the patriotism that would stomp all over the constitution to protect the flag. The patriotism of the Patriot Act. The patriotism of "freedom fries" and refusing to order French wine in a restaurant.

But there is another kind of patriotism. The patriotism of "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right" (Senator Carl Schurz). I love my country, but I will not stand by and give my support when my moral compass tells me we are in the wrong. There is no intrinsic morality or superiority in actions taken by the American government. And when I disagree I will use my voice and my vote to work to change the government and to make things right. Dissent is the essence of democracy. To deny this is the real betrayal of what our country stands for.

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