At a time of such intense political and social stress, we hear the word “patriot” thrown around quite a lot.
“You aren’t patriotic!” people yell at those who disagree with them.
“A true patriot wouldn’t do what you’re doing, wouldn’t think what your thinking, wouldn’t believe in your beliefs!”
I don’t know if I’m a patriot or not. I’ve written before about the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to describe myself as someone who loves “my” country more than other countries.
What does it mean to “love my country” anyway? Does mean that I love the soil itself, the rivers and forests? Is it love of that which is familiar to us? Do we need to feel separate from others, and superior to them, in order to feel comfortable in our own place?
Or is patriotism a love of those who share our national community? Is it about loving and defending other Americans?
I don’t know. I’m not sure what other people mean by the word, and certainly have no clear definition myself.
But these days we are watching our President set himself up to dispute the results of our national election, should he lose. We’re hearing people vow to take up arms to protest the election results, or to defend them. Americans are already carrying loaded weapons into our cities to murder those on the “other side” in name of “patriotism.”
It seems likely that violence and disorder are facing us in the next few weeks and months.
So I’ve started to ask myself, “What am I willing to do in the name of my country? What would I risk in the name of patriotism?”
I’m not sure. But this is what I think.
I am sure that I will buy extra food, medicine and emergency supplies so no matter what, my family will have enough. I’m willing to can tomatoes and freeze batches of veggies and fruit.
If things get tough, and supplies become scarce, I’d be willing to share with my neighbors.
If it really gets bad, and people are hungry, I think I could manage to kill a dove or a duck or even a turkey. I’m not sure about my ability to kill a rabbit or a deer. But I don’t know; I’ve never been hungry or seen my family starve.
I would be willing to march in the streets with signs to defend a person or a group that was under attack. I’ve done that more than once already. I’d be willing to occupy a park or a building in the name of protecting other Americans.
But what I would not do is hurt or kill another American. I can’t see myself ever coming to that point. Not to prove my “patriotism” or to defend a political idea.
Because for me it isn’t important to love the dirt on which I live. I don’t consider democrat lives to have more value than republican lives. I will not hurt or kill any person who thinks differently than I do. I will not take up arms in defense of “America.” Not on the streets of Portland or Boston or this little town.
I believe that I could kill if I were forced to protect my family. I hope that I would be willing to do anything to save the life of any child.
But to use weapons against others to protect an abstract idea of “my” nation, or “my” party?
I wouldn’t do it.
At least, I fervently pray that I wouldn’t.
Now I just need to pray that most people feel the same way.