I like the way Mark Twain described patriotism. He said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
Lately, the word ‘patriotism’ has been tossed around by both Democrats and Republicans as a way to paint themselves as the good guys and their opponents as the evildoers.
You know what I mean, right?
Trump claims that progressive Democrats “hate America”. He tells them that if they are so critical of our country, they should just leave. I don’t know about you, but I remember hearing similar sentiments from Republicans in the past, when the left was critical of various wars and regime building exercises. Feel free to leave if you don’t like it here with us!
We all know people who fly flags to show how patriotic they are. They wear red, white and blue shirts and sport “America First” hats.
And I don’t mean to point fingers at the Republicans alone, either. We have plenty of Democrats who are trying to seize the moral high ground. Maxine Waters demanded not long ago that Republicans must “prove their patriotism” in the age of Donald Trump.
So what is patriotism?
Is it blind loyalty to a piece of cloth? Or loyalty to a chunk of soil? Is it devotion and total acceptance of one politician, or one party, or one economic philosophy?
I say no.
I say this: Patriotism is the belief that my country is a place where people can live well and prosper. It is a determination to make that claim true.
So I will no longer register as either a D or an R. I won’t automatically support the person with the D or the R after their name on the ballot.
I will be a patriot by doing everything I can to make my tiny part of this huge world safer and kinder for as many people as possible.
My patriotism, from this day on, will be shown by listening to people with whom I disagree. It will be shown by donating to my local Community Action Committee. By donating towels and shampoo to the homeless shelter and volunteering at the hospital.
I’m a patriot because I believe that humans are the only part of the country that means anything. Humans need food and homes and clothes and jobs. Humans need education and health care. They need a sense of belonging and of a shared destiny.
Humans need to be able to raise their kids without fear. They need to be able to go through every day focused on the next meal and the upcoming holiday and the weather.
They need to be protected from the dangers of war, or xenophobia, or mass killings, of extreme poverty and sickness.
I’m a patriot when I greet the new cashier at my local grocery store, admire her bright red hijab and ask her what country she’s from. I’m a patriot when she and I share recipes for bone broth and wish each other a good weekend. I’m a patriot when I turn off the never-ending partisan blather about impeachment, corruption, lies, lawbreaking and who is less of a patriot than whom. When I turn on music and sing with my grandkids. I’m a patriot when I teach them how to make the Italian foods that I learned at my own Nana’s table and when we research new recipes together from countries we’ve never seen. I’m a patriot when I meet a Mom at the local park and learn that she came to Massachusetts from West Africa and we both hate the same ice-sleet storms that plague New England in late winter.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “The American President.” The girlfriend of the President is upset with him because he doesn’t stand up to his opponent, who keeps bashing the people who do support him. She says, “How can you keep quiet? How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans?”
I’d like both of our ruling parties to think about this quote. If you can’t stand half of us because we disagree with you, then you don’t “love America”. You are not a patriot.
WE are America. You either love us all, govern us all, protect us all, or you are clearly no patriot. And you are not fit for public office.
At the time we thought it was just his hugely inflated ego speaking, but now it looks like he was right.
Watching the latest evidence of corruption, lawbreaking, lying and stonewalling from the White House it has become evident that there is nothing Trump could do to provoke a reaction strong enough to get him out of there.
It’s obvious that no one in the GOP has any intention of turning against “their guy.” And it is not because they have such respect for the man.
Lindsay Graham, one of the best known and most respected Republicans in the Senate, called Trump a “kook” before he was nominated in 2016. After abruptly leaving the House of Representatives, former Speaker Paul Ryan said this about Trump:
I told myself, I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government.
One after another, nearly all of the conservatives chosen to work in the Trump administration have either been fired or have walked away from the chaos in the White House.
But other than one or two minor actors in the GOP (Just Amash, Jeff Flake), no Republicans have stepped up to admit that Donald Trump is unfit for the highest office in the land.
Instead, they are choosing to circle the proverbial wagons and stick together to protect their party’s interests.
As infuriating as that behavior is, however, I find it more upsetting that it is taking the Democrats so long to take action against this President.
It seems glaringly obvious that a strong case could be made for the 25th Amendment. There is the strong evidence of a neurological disorder on display every time the President speaks. There are the hundreds of mental health professionals who are convinced that Trump shows a serious personality disorder that makes him a danger to the world.
And then there are the daily lies, the refusal to allow anyone in his circle to testify before Congress, the complete contempt for the rule of law.
From where most of us sit, there is plenty to work with if the Dems decide to proceed with impeachment.
So what is it that makes Speaker Pelosi so reluctant to take any action against Trump? What is it that has the Democratic leadership insisting that “we must have all the facts” before proceeding with an inquiry intended to elicit those very facts?
It sure isn’t a love of the Constitution, that much I know for sure.
In Article II, Section 4 of that famous founding document, the case for removing a President from office reads like this:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.
There is nothing in these words to indicate that the decision to impeach should be based on the likelihood of getting a conviction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it suggest that the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings only if they are positive they’ll succeed in ousting the target of the process.
Nevertheless, that seems to be the thinking among the Democratic leadership.
“We can’t go ahead with impeachment,” the thinking goes, “because the Senate won’t vote to convict and remove the President. That would mean a failure for our party, and we might lose seats in the next election.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter how many high crimes and misdemeanors the President commits, we won’t hold him accountable because that would cause our party to lose votes.
The GOP is only interested in protecting the reputation of the party. They want to hold onto the Senate more than they want to save the republic from a crook (or a “kook”.)
The Dems are only interested in protecting their votes in the next election. They want to hold onto the House and flip some Senate seat more than they want to save the republic from a mentally ill, unstable, possibly demented narcissist.
To put it another way, it no longer matters how crazy, how criminal, how dangerous the actions of any future President may be.
As long as that President is a member of the same party that controls the Senate, they will be free to do anything they’d like to do without any worry.
Including, presumably, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.
The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.
So before you go accusing me of being a super boring politics nerd, I have to tell you that I don’t watch C-SPAN all that often. I mean, sure. Sometimes I tune in to the morning show where the obviously sedated extremely calm host takes calls from both right and left as they discuss the topics of the day.
But I rarely watch actual Congressional hearings.
Today, however, my close friend told me that her daughter-in-law would be giving testimony, and would be on the live coverage. That sounded pretty exciting to me, so I tuned in right at 10AM to see her give her professional and well respected opinion on issues of national security.
I clicked on the set and was both surprised and nauseated to find myself listening to the brain melting drone of Mitch McConnell as he scolded the Democrats for not passing a spending bill.
Oh, the hypocrisy.
I switched over to C-SPAN2, where I was forced to endure a series of Congressmen moaning and gnashing their teeth over the terrible danger that vaping is posing to our youth. One after the other, they got up to declare (with surprisingly straight faces) that they will NOT stand by and simply DO NOTHING while the health and safety of our youth are at risk!
Each one sounded more sincere then the one before. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that this was group of national leaders who would do just about anything to stop a classroom full of six years old from being shredded into bits by a crazed gunman.
I kept flipping the channels back and forth, hoping to see my friend’s smart and articulate DIL.
Instead I was treated to a bunch of wrinkly old white men complaining and whining about the other wrinkly old white men who weren’t playing fair. “They won’t follow the rules!” was followed by “THEY won’t follow the rules!”
The language was most likely more sophisticated than what I am offering here, but this old retired elementary school teacher knew exactly what she was hearing.
Having mediated at least 1,000 recess and classroom disputes in my career, I know that what I was hearing was this:
“I want to play it MY way!”
“But I want to play MY way!”
“No, me!” “No, me!”
“You’re a doody pants!”
“He called me a doody pants! YOUR a doody poopy pants!!!!”
It was…..ridiculous. It was absurd. It was disgusting and demoralizing and it was validating.
It was proof positive that this country absolutely must move beyond the two entrenched, corporate parties.
Otherwise I fear that no one will ever have a chance to listen to the wisdom of those who actually run things every day. Instead we will be left with the choice of tuning out completely or subjecting ourselves to the worst juvenile behavior that any fifth grader could even imagine.
Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t read my work before now..
I am a retired speech/language pathologist. For more than two decades, I spent every workday diagnosing and treating language disorders. I have helped people with a wide variety of communication deficits. I was very good at my job.
That’s why, in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of the field for several years, I am completely confident when I write that Donald Trump is exhibiting a serious language disorder.
Let me explain.
A deficit in expressing and/or understanding language is called aphasia.The term is most often used in diagnosing people who were not born with the disorder, but who acquire it later in life. Aphasia can be caused by a head injury, a stroke or as a part of a more significant cognitive decline in older adults.
One aspect of aphasia impacts a person’s expressive language. This is the kind of language disorder that is more obvious to those who interact with the affected patient. The person struggles to say what they mean. They may have difficulties in expressing ideas logically and specifically They might be seen to be searching for the right word as they speak. Many aphasic people develop an overreliance on empty words and phrases. I have known patients who included a favorite phrase or two into nearly every sentence spoken, as the rote language makes it easier to get out a full thought.
Some aphasic people make up words when they can’t find the one they need. The new word might or might not sound similar to the one that is missing.
People with expressive aphasia sometimes substitute one word or phrase for a similar one (ie, saying “chicken” when they mean “duck” or saying, “off the book” instead of “off the hook.”) Their conversations may seem rambling, with rapid jumps from one topic to another without any explanation. A story can go off on any number of tangents, leaving the listener confused.
Many people with what we call “fluent aphasia” can string together a long series of words that seem to make sense until you realize that there isn’t much content there. There are lots of pronouns and adjectives, but not enough nouns to make the meaning clear.
Aphasia can impact receptive language, or comprehension, as well. Aphasic people may struggle to follow complex conversations. They often misunderstand directions or fail to grasp the meaning of a question they’ve been asked. They find it confusing when more than one person is speaking at a time, or when the topic shifts in mid-conversation.
Some people with aphasia have problems with reading and writing. They may struggle to read anything other than the simplest of texts. Their writing can contain mistakes in syntax, word order or spelling that weren’t seen in the past.
Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly should.
The President of the United States is showing every one of these symptoms.
“Mr. President, are you demanding that the fed chairman lower interest rates?”
“No, I don’t demand it but if he used his head he’d lower ’em. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate. And when they borrow money, when you look at what happens, look at what’s going on over there. They borrow money, they actually get paid to borrow money. And we have to compete with that. So, ah, if you look at what’s happening around the world, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call, I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was right. He did quantitative tightening, he shouldn’t have done that. He raised interest rates too fast, too furious. And we have a normalized rate, I, we call it that. And now we have to go the other direction. We’ll see if he does that. If he does it, you’ll see a rocket ship, you’ll see….. And if he doesn’t, we have a very strong economy.”
“But we could have. We could be, we could be in a place that this nation was seldom at if we had interest rates cut by the federal reserve. The Federal Reserve has let us down. They missed the call. They raised it too fast and they raised it too high and they did quantitative tightening and they shouldn’t have done the tightening and they shouldn’t have raised them to the extent that they did. We could have had some raising but nothing like what they did.”
“Mr. President, what happened to your strong appetite for background checks?”
“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks, we’re gonnna be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we’re gonna be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border, and speaking about at the border, it would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in.”
“But what does that have to do with background checks and guns?”
“So what happens is….with background checks….we’re dealing with Republicans, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with the NRA, we’re dealing with gun owners, we’re dealing with everybody. And I think we’re gonna have something hopefully that’s meaningful.”
Note the repetition of phrases in this small sample. “We’re dealing with” and “we’re working with” were used over and over, with no description or clarification. Does he mean that he is meeting with those groups, or that he is making deals with them or something else? My impression is the President relies heavily on memorized phrases, which are easy to pull out and use.
Watch any of Trump’s unscripted remarks and try to count how many times he says, “We’ll see what happens.”
Note the word “raising” in the phrase “We could have had some raising.” The meaning is clear, but the word choice is troubling to this language specialist. We would expect the President of the US to say, “We could have had an increase.”
I’m sure you also noticed the rapid and inexplicable jump from the topic of background checks to that of the Mexican army at the border. It’s as if the word “loopholes” triggered a thought of the border crisis for some reason and that thought let made Trump jump completely off the track of the question.
Look at the discussion of Germany. Trump says,
“In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany.”
What’s much stronger than Germany? We can make a guess that he’s referring to our economy, but the language of the sentence is clearly abnormal. In English, we don’t use a comparative like “much stronger” without including the referent.
Then there is the repeated phrase “missed the call”. We have a few idioms that are close to this one (“missed the boat” or “missed the mark” come to mind.) But we don’t say “missed the call” unless we mean a phone call. Or we’re referring to a sports referee.
Do you recall when the President recently met with religious refugees in the Oval Office? The following exchange happened between Trump and a young Yazidi woman.
“All this happened to me. They killed my Mum, my six brothers, they left behind them… “
“Where are they now?”
“They killed them.”
She told him that her family had been killed. He asked “Where are they now?”
He did not have the slightest understanding of what she’d said.
We saw the same lack of comprehension this week when Trump was asked about having second thoughts on his trade war with China.
“Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not? Might as well, might as well.”
Once again, he completely failed to understand the question. A question which was then repeated by a different journalist, to which he replied,
“I have second thoughts about everything.”
Did he even understand the meaning of “second thoughts”? I am not at all sure.
Reading and Writing
Donald Trump is well known for his aversion to the written word.
When Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, spoke about his time at the White House, he said that Trump didn’t like to read. Tillerson was told that the President would not be reading the usual briefing notebook each morning, but instead would only accept bullet points or charts.
Mr. Trump himself has stated that he doesn’t like to read. In an interview with Axios shortly after his inauguration, Trump said that he doesn’t like to read, preferring bullet points to full essays.
“I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
Although he is the author of several books, we know that each had a ghostwriter. Trump claims to have attended the best of schools, but has never let his school records be made public.
I say all of this because it brings up the diagnostic question of whether or not the man has always struggled with reading and writing, or whether this is a new phenomenon.
Whether or not that disorder is progressive is difficult to say but when I analyze his conversations from years ago, I believe that it is. His past interviews were far more coherent and much more linguistically sophisticated than what we hear now.
Whether or not the language disorder is developing as part of some type of dementia is up to a neurologist to diagnose.
I am not qualified to say whether or not Donald Trump has a personality disorder or a mental illness. But I am qualified to say that when I listen to him speak, I am increasingly convinced that he has significant aphasia.
What I know is this. Something is most assuredly amiss in the brain of the President of the United States. And he is the one with the nuclear codes.
I was thinking about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib today. I was thinking of her because she isn’t going to visit her grandmother, and that makes me so sad.
I’m a grandmother, too. I love my two grandchildren so much that sometimes I think it might be too extreme. I love their smiles, their hugs, their sweet voices.
I love their hair, and the softness of it against my cheek. I love their deep brown eyes and all the emotion those eyes express.
Being separated from them, even for a week, is a pain that tears my heart.
I live because my children and grandchildren breathe and laugh and sing and because they love me almost as much as I love them.
I can’t begin to imagine how awful it would be to be kept away from them.
So I think of Rep. Tlaib. I think of her “sity”, her 90 ish year old grandmother. I imagine how much the old woman craves the embrace of her beloved granddaughter, and how much Rashida misses her grandmother.
The Congresswoman wanted to travel to Israel/Palestine. She wanted to go to see her family, but also to address the desperately important issue of how the USA’s key ally treats its Muslim citizens. She and her colleague, Ilhan Omar, wanted to have some oversight of the country that receives one third of our foreign aid.
That’s their job, after all.
But Israel, with a push from the Donald Trump, denied them entry. The Israeli government claimed that the two Muslim women, who support and promote the idea of Palestinian autonomy, would be coming only to damage Israel.
Two young women.
And the most powerful country in the middle east was afraid of what they might say.
After a strong pushback from Americans of both political parties and many Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, the government of Israel offered a tepid compromise. Rep. Tlaib could go to see her grandmother, but could not engage in any conversations or activities that would promote the cause of Palestinian activists or criticize the Israeli government. Rep. Omar, lacking a local grandmother, would not be allowed in at all.
Ms. Tlaib rejected the offer, saying that it violated her right to free speech and diminished her role as an elected official of the USA.
“Why doesn’t she just accept Israel’s offer to let her visit under a humanitarian visa?” I thought yesterday, as the story of the Congresswoman’s thwarted visit to her ancestral homeland unfolded.
“Why not just go, and hug her grandmother, and thank her for her years of care and guidance? Why not just brush off Israel’s rules about not mentioning the conditions under which the Palestinians are living? Just go, and don’t be so political!”
But then I started to think. I realized that I was thinking like a grandmother, and not like an educated citizen of the world.
And I remembered a moment that happened to me long ago, in the summer of 1973. I was living as an exchange student with a Muslim family in Tunisia. They were open minded, very well educated and as kind as any family could be.
We were talking about the increasing tensions between Egypt and Israel and the threat of war on the horizon. I said something about Israel, and there was a sudden silence in the room.
My sweet, kind, loving Tunisian Papa said to me, very gently, “Karima, ici on dit Palestine.”
“Karima, here we call it Palestine.”
Not Israel, but Palestine.
That simple phrase opened my eyes.
That land is both. It belongs to both. Both have roots in that place. But the needs and wishes of the Palestinians have long been pushed aside as the west tries to make amends for what happened during the Holocaust.
I understand both sides. I support both sides. I think there is room for both peoples to live in that ancient land.
But I also support Rashida Tlaib in her decision not to go there now. Not to visit her much loved grandmother.
I support her desire to go at a time when she can address the governments of both the US and Israel and say, “Here we call it Palestine.”
It’s been a long and scary day here in Massachusetts. One, or maybe two, tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod. We saw roofs blown off, power taken out, trees uprooted, roads blocked.
And of course we saw dozens of people stepping up to help their neighbors, their friends, and total strangers.
It got me thinking.
When the storms blow in, and everyday life is turned completely on its head, we humans immediately become our best selves. We bring each other water, and give each other food. We pull the trees off of our neighbor’s houses and we offer to share our generators.
I’ve seen it.
In 2008, a huge ice storm hit this part of New England. My street was without power for nine days. But our neighbors across town offered hot showers, a place to do laundry and a community meal. Our neighbors across the street emptied their swimming pool into barrels and brought them around to all of us who couldn’t flush our toilets because our water runs on an electrically operated pump.
We shared food, wood stoves, water, chain saws. It was wonderful and awful at the same time.
Disaster mentality. It’s not a bad thing.
So how about this?
How about if we all approach each other as if we were in the middle of a disaster? How about if we look at each other as people, humans, neighbors?
I know that when the power went out, I didn’t ask my neighbors who they were voting for. I didn’t ask their thoughts on immigration or global warming or race relations or anything.
I just asked if they needed anything. They asked me that back.
So wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if we all decided to think about each other as if we’re in the middle of a major disaster? If we could ask each other, “What do you need?” or “What will help you?” instead of asking how we feel about Medicare for all?
I don’t know if it would help.
But it couldn’t be worse than what we are doing right now. It couldn’t be worse than judging each other by which T shirt we are wearing.
We live in difficult times. We live in sorrowful times.
We live in times that make it hard for us to keep our humanity close at hand. Times when we need to remind ourselves that those “others” are really “us”.
So I’m thinking. I’m not talented enough to come up with the powerful words that these times require. Luckily, a lot of very talented people have already covered this ground.
“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the observer.” by Elie Wiesel
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”
– Robert E. Lee
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-Emma Lazarus, poem on the Statue of Liberty
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
I’ve been writing about Donald Trump’s disordered language since the morning after his nomination. I listened to him speak extemporaneously on that morning after his big day, and I recognized the very same disorders of expressive language that I had seen for 30 years as a speech/language pathologist.
I wrote about my observations then, and my feelings have not changed at all in the past two years.
In fact, now I find myself ever more convinced that our leader has a significant expressive language disorder. But I am wondering now if that disorder is secondary to a cognitive disorder, like dementia, as has been posited by the group Duty to Warn.
I am not a neuropsychologist, so I am not qualified to speak on the question of Trump’s cognitive functioning. I’ll leave that to those who are so qualified.
But I think I need to go on the record in documenting what to me are clear and obvious symptoms of a language disorder.
So here I am.
Today I was in my car, listening to XM Radio. I happened to hear 10 minutes of comments by Donald Trump on the environment and his administration’s determination to keep it healthy and clean.
Here are my observations, as a retired speech/language pathologist.
Overuse of a familiar word: In the space of ten minutes, Trump used the adjective “incredible” 6 times. His other adjectives included “big, beautiful, tremendous”. The word “incredible” carries very little meaning, obviously. It could mean a variety of things, including powerful, successful, unexpected, unbelievable, etc. When a speaker relies on one word, it can be an indication of a word finding issue.
Trump was talking about the situation with Iran, and used this phrase “They threatened them dearly.” What does this mean? Huh? “Threatened them dearly”?
This one goes back to Trump’s statements at the Lincoln Memorial. In that speech, Trump used the phrase “they rammed the ramparts.” As a former speech/language pathologist, this sounds to me like a situation where the speaker knew the phrase “man the ramparts”, but was unable to recall it on demand. Instead, he used an incorrect and laughable phrase. One cannot “ram the ramparts” as Trump stated.
All of this is of serious concern. I’m not writing because I dislike Trump. I’m writing it because it is increasingly clear to me that we are all under the control and guidance of someone who is demonstrating very serious issues with communication and possibly with cognition.
We need this President to undergo a serious and complete neuropsych eval as soon as possible.
And as a committed and confirmed Bernie supporter, I’d like to see the same eval happen on any future elected President.
The other day I saw a poll question on the website Smerconish.com. The question was “How proud are you to be an American?”
Interesting question, I guess.
I really like Michael Smerconish, the owner of the website. He is also the host of a show on SiriusXM’s POTUS station and one on CNN. He is very smart, so I always learn something when I listen to him. He is very well informed, so I believe what he reports. And he is pretty non-partisan. He has been a Republican for most of his adult life, but is open minded and thoughtful.
I like him.
So I thought a lot about his poll question.
And here’s what I decided.
There are many things in my life that make me proud.
I’m very proud of my children. They are kind. They are altruistic. They all work in fields that let them help other people. They love each other. They are loyal friends. I am proud of them because I had something to do with how they turned out. I worked hard to be the best parent I could be.
I’m proud of my professional life. I’ve helped to teach hundreds of kids over the years. I’ve learned a lot, taken classes, listened to my smarter colleagues. I’m proud of having done my best to be a supportive and loving adult in the lives of my students. I did my best. I worked hard. I’m proud of my efforts.
My garden gives me a lot of pride, too. When I moved into this house almost three decades ago, there were no flowers. I have dug, weeded, thinned, composted, taken gardening classes, read books, transplanted, pulled up grass……You get it. I have worked very hard to make my yard look inviting in the warm months and cozy in the cold ones. And it’s all organic, too!
But when I think about the question on the website, I am confused.
Why should I feel pride in something for which I bear no responsibility? I was born an American citizen. I didn’t do a single thing to make that true. It’s true because of blind luck. And because of the courage and determination of my grandparents, who chose to leave the beauty and poverty of Italy in the hope of giving their children a better life.
I’m grateful that they did that. I’m happy about it. But proud?
I don’t deserve to feel pride.
How do I feel about the founding principals upon which this country was built?
Well. Given the fact that my ancestors were on another continent when all of that glory was unfolding, arriving on these shores only in the middle of the industrial revolution, I don’t see why I should feel pride in my country.
Do I like the principals and goals enumerated in our founding documents? Sure, for the most part I like them just fine. Sure. Freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness? All good.
But am I proud of them? No. Because I didn’t think of them, fight for them, sacrifice to see them put into place. I didn’t write them down and sign the Declaration of Independence even though that signature might have cost me my life.
So. I guess I’m not actually proud to be an American.
But how do I feel about my personal role in the life of the United States? Am I proud of that?
To some extent, yes I am.
I’m proud that I follow our political discourse. I’m proud that I read multiple sources to shape my ideas. I’m proud that I have gotten involved and have marched for causes I support. I’m proud of the fact that I always vote.
These are actions I’ve taken. Efforts that I have made, on my own, to improve life in this country.
I’m proud of myself as an American. But I don’t understand the idea of being “proud to be an American.”
I am an American because, by the luck of the draw, I was born here. I am an American because other people made sacrifices to get me here.
I am proud to be a decent, kind, loving human. I am proud to be inclusive and welcoming. I’m proud to be nurturing.
I am be proud to have given something good and beautiful to the world.
And I will remember that I have no reason, and no right, to be proud of the things that were given to me simply by luck.
I had a wonderful conversation today with two intelligent, thoughtful women. One is a college student. Incredibly bright, well read, an engineer in training, and a gifted singer. The other is her grandmother, born and raised in the Netherlands, but an American for many decades.
We were chatting about life at a family party, and the topic of motherhood came up. The young woman has her doubts about wanting to raise a child. As I teased her and prodded her about the joys of parenting, she said something that brought my words to a halt.
“I don’t know where this country will be in five or ten years. I don’t know that I want to bring a child into a place like this.”
That lead us to a discussion of national politics, and to the scary and bewildering place in which we find ourselves.
We talked about the current horde or Democratic candidates, and realized that all three of us are firmly behind the progressives who are running. We all shared our excitement about the fact that there seems to be a competition to shake out which one of them is the most liberal.
How refreshing, I said to them both, I’ve been calling myself a Socialist since the 1970s!
That’s when my new friend, the woman raised in the Netherlands, began to share her thoughts.
“I don’t understand this strange reaction to the word Socialist! It doesn’t mean that you don’t want any kind of capitalism! It means that capitalism must have a conscience!”
We talked about the fact that a healthy and thriving country is one that takes care of the very basic needs of it’s people. About the fact that our friends from Europe are unable to understand when we tell them that our daughter will only have six weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth to a child.
We talked about the fact that if a country is able to produce a healthy, well educated, financially secure next generation, it is likely to have a stronger economy than a country whose people live in poverty.
“It’s so simple!” said my friend. “Socialism means that the government takes care of the social needs of the people. Why don’t Americans look at the lives of Europeans and see what it could be like here? Why don’t they look at life in the Scandinavian countries? Or in the rest of Western Europe?”
I had no answer for her, obviously. But I agreed with her assessment.
It is so simple.
Taxes should be paid to the government so that the government can provide the basic needs that individuals can’t grant to themselves. Education, paved roads, healthcare, national defense, a secure retirement, a healthy environment.
“It is so simple.”
Yes. It really is.
I wonder if the United States can ever get itself to see that fact.