Am I a Patriot?


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.

Image attribution:https://www.youthvoices.live/category/american-creed/

Waking Up in 2020


It is the sound of the wind that wakes me up. A cool breeze flutters the dark blue curtains that fall across my window.

My first thought is that it’s morning. After having woken up three times in the night, it’s a relief to see daylight.

I roll over. I slowly orient myself. “It’s late summer….it’s Sunday morning….there’s nothing much on the agenda for today….”

Suddenly it slams into me: it is early fall of 2020.

The blankets feel heavy all at once, pressing on my heart and my chest. I drape an arm across my eyes as the waves come flooding over me. Trump against Biden, and only a few weeks left. The lies being told and repeated and told again. The violence in the streets, the rage, the injustice, the impotence of trying to make a point to anyone who will listen.

These thoughts are quickly chased out by fear of the second surge of Covid that is expected in the next few weeks. Will schools be safe? Will we have to go back on lockdown? Will the supply chains dry up again?

Will this ever end?

Are we facing civil war? The rhetoric on social media scares me more every day. The people marching in our streets with guns in their hands, insisting that they have to protect us all from enemies who come from “the other side.” The images are terrifying.

Will the economy continue to slide, and what will that mean for us, for our future? Are we heading into a depression, or even another deep recession, like the one that ravaged this small town just over a decade ago?

I roll over again, pulling my knees up to ease the pain in my back and in my soul. I’d like to stay here all day, rolled up like a pill bug, shielding myself from the reality that is 2020.

It’s the same every day. It’s the same every time I wake up. I stay in my restful place for maybe ten seconds, and suddenly I’m drowning in helplessness and frustration. Every action feels futile.

Everything I know is out of my control.

But I don’t stay in my bed. I refuse to be that far down. I push myself to my feet and stand in my window, holding the curtains back. I force myself to see my own small piece of the universe.

The woods are glowing. Wet leaves sparkle in the breeze. The air smells of the earth and a hint of the coming frost. There’s a cardinal chirping out there, and from overhead I hear a hawk’s piercing call.

The thumping of two tails on my bedroom floor tells me that my dogs are up and waiting for their hugs and scratches. I smell coffee, and picture my husband in his blue robe, knees up and feet on the scratched coffee table, checking the news on his laptop.

I am healthy and safe. There is more than enough food in our house to feed us for months. My children are safe and healthy. My grandchildren are joyfully oblivious to the wide world, and are happy to have so much time with both parents.

This reality, my small piece of reality, is where I absolutely must keep my focus.

I can’t change the outcome of the election. I can’t force Trump to stop lying to us. I can’t force people to see those lies for the blatant gaslighting that they are.

I can’t cure the virus, or keep the schools safe and healthy. I can’t give 50 million Americans jobs or make Europe let us all back in.

What I can do is enjoy my cup of esspresso, scratch the soft spots behind my dog’s ears and give my husband a hug.

I can tell my children and grandchildren how much I love them, and I can call my Momma for a chat. I can send letters and cards to friends.

That is my world for now.

The challenge is to convince myself that it is, in fact, enough.

How the Boston Red Sox Changed My Political Views.


I’ve been a Red Sox fan since June of 1967. That was when my fifth grade teacher took our class to Fenway Park for a night game. I don’t remember who the Sox played that night, but I remember that the game went into extra innings, and that Tony Conigliaro hit a home run in the bottom of the tenth to win it.

I also remember that the picture of Tony C. in the program was about the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life and my first real crush was born.

As was my life as a Red Sox fan.

If you follow baseball at all, you’ll know that the Boston team used to be famous for it’s inability to win. Year after year, we Sox fans would cheer ourselves hoarse in the spring and cry ourselves hoarse in the fall.

That all changed in October of 2004, when the Sox finally overturned the curse that had plagued them for 86 years. They won the World Series.

All of New England celebrated that victory. We were beyond thrilled, beyond excited, beyond proud. You would have thought that every one of us had pitched in the playoffs!

What made things even sweeter for us was that in order to make it into the World Series, our beloved boys has beaten the despised New York Yankees.

All year long, all through the 2004 season, and for several years afterward, everyone in New England talked about how much we hated the Yankees.

I remember how everyone talked about the two teams. Our guys were “The Idiots”; the Yankees were the “Evil Empire.” We adored the relaxed, fun feeling of our team. So they drank in the clubhouse, so what? We were charmed by the antics of Johnny Damon, chuckling at the image of his naked pull-ups.

And we all knew, deep in our very souls, that A-Rod was weak, whining and pitiful. We loathed Derek Jeter, who we considered to be cold, emotionaless. An automaton with no soul. Don’t even get me started on what we thought of Joe Torre, a manager as sour as our own Terry Francona was sweet.

Curt Schilling? Our brave hero!

Mariano Rivera? A fool.

And on and on it went. It was kind of fun, you know? Our shared adoration for one team and shared hatred for the other gave us a sense of belonging. It gave us a feeling of safety and security. It gave us a sense that we were a clan, protected by our loyalty to ourselves.

It was only during one of the off seasons that it occurred to me that we were being a little closed minded. I listened to an interview with Derek Jeter on XM Radio. I was surprised to realize that the man was articulate, intelligent, warm and funny.

And then I was surprised at my own surprise.

I am embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that just because a guy wore a Red Sox jersey, I couldn’t assume that he was a prince. The whole “team” thing was really only about baseball games, not character.

When all was said and done, Curt Schilling turned out to be someone I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus, while Derek Jeter is a guy I’ve truly come to admire.

So what does all this have to do with politics, you ask?

It’s the whole “Vote Blue No Matter Who” thing, that’s what. It’s the way that we immediately write off anyone who watches a different cable news channel than we do.

I know it can be fun to laugh at those memes about how stupid the “sheep” are because they can’t “think for themselves.” But this stuff is only funny when “our” side is saying it about “their” side. When the barb is turned around and aimed at “us”, we bristle and comfort ourselves by saying how hateful the other side is.

Here’s the thing: I have really strong political views. I’m a far left, progressive, Medicare-for-all, tuition-free-public-college, hippy snowflake. It would be really easy for me to pick a team.

But I’m no longer willing to assume that every other liberal thinker is a saint and every conservative a sinner. “We” aren’t smarter than “they” are. “We” aren’t kinder, or more gentle, or more deserving.

And we are NOT a team.

I don’t think of the political parties as teams. I don’t think of their followers as teams. I now realize that everyone who wears my favorite uniform isn’t a good guy and everyone who wears the other jersey isn’t criminal. I am no longer willing to vote for a candidate just because there is a D next to their name.

I have finally realized that I won’t be pitching in the playoffs. In fact, I know now that this isn’t actually a game and that I’m not bound by clan loyalty to help one team come out on top.

Because we live (at least theoretically) in a democracy, I am free to cast my vote for whichever candidate I prefer.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for helping me to evolve.

Image attribution: Red Sox vs. Padres, Fenway Park July 4th” by djanimal is licensed under CC BY 2.0