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/

My Idea of Patriotism


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.

Patriotism has been defined in the past as “My country, right or wrong.” Yeehah.

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.

One Last Thought Before I Go


I can’t stand Donald Trump. He is a liar. I hate liars. He is willing to turn us all against each other to achieve his own power and his own gains. I hate that kind of selfishness.

But I love a lot of his followers. I love my relatives who have come to every birthday party for my kids, sent graduation gifts, danced at family weddings, made me dinners just for fun. I love my neighbors who kayak with us, go out to dinner with us, share perennials, gripe about the lousy weather and sit through endless town meetings with us.

I despise the media moguls who control our thoughts by following the orders of their corporate overlords. Fox News is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump and his Corporate organization. They’re ridiculous. They aren’t news. I would never look to them for news.

CNN is less obvious, but “Breaking News” every hour on the hour for the past 10 years? Seriously, dudes? One big story per week, with endless repetitive talking heads pretending outrage and tears? That’s your idea of news?

Come. On.

I hate the ugly words that are being hurled around by people who disagree on the latest core issue. I hate seeing people berated for their beliefs, their life styles, their religious choices, their sexual preferences. I hate it. I hate the swears, the offensive remarks, the name calling, the hatred, the plain old meanness.

I don’t love my country, because I don’t know what that means. Am I supposed to love the dirt? The trees? The highways? Am I supposed to love the flag, no matter where it waves or who is holding it or how it is used? I don’t know if I’m expected to love my government? The bureaucracy of it? The big money that owns it?

I do love my countrymen. I love them because they’re also trying to make sense of the struggles we face every day. They want jobs, they want some financial security, they was to know that if they work hard they will be able to provide a safe life for their families.

I love my countrymen because they are humans. I love my fellow humans. I don’t hate the ones who are different from me. I don’t hate or fear the ones who have different colored skin than mine. I don’t hate of fear the ones who are more or less religious than me or the ones who call the divine by a name I don’t recognize. I don’t fear or hate my fellow humans if they are richer or poorer than me, or if they speak a different language or if they live in a different part of this earth.

And I don’t hate or fear my fellow humans, my fellow Americans, my fellow community members because they disagree with my views on gun control or border safety or trade or taxes.

I hope that I am smart enough to find some truth in all the complete bullshit that is filling our world. I hope that I am brave enough to listen when people have different ideas than my own.

And I hope that I am kind enough, evolved enough, thoughtful enough to grant my fellow family members, neighbors, coworkers the right to their own opinions.

I will still work as hard as I can to move my country and my world in a direction that seems the best to me. I will still work as diligently as possible to bring a positive, loving, kind world into being.

But I will try my best to do that without screaming at my friends on the “other side.”

I don’t know if my plan will work. I just know that it’s the only way I can proceed and still feel proud of myself as I look in the mirror every day.

I wish more people shared my view.

It might make us all a lot safer and a whole lot better informed.

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Trying to be my best self.