Monday, July 4, 2011
I don't know how to be patriotic.
Let's be clear that I am very happy that I was born a citizen of the USA. I wouldn't want to give that up, ever. I could see having a secondary citizenship ... Canadian, Swedish, Finnish, maybe French ... but I would never want to forfeit my US passport.
I love the land in the US. Nothing beats that. And I love my fellow citizens and residents as a whole, even though many of them as individuals drive me totally batty. We are a kind of a big, sort of dysfunctional family, after all. In a family you take the good and bad together and make the best of it.
I guess that all that adds up to the fact that I do love my country. But the expression of this feeling ... that's where I get lost.
As I have seen it for many years, the way to be patriotic has been co-opted to mean one way only, the flag waving, USA #1, red white and blue style epitomized at the moment by Sarah Palin, tea party members and Republican politicians. You know, the ones that made a mountain of the molehill of Barack Obama not wearing a flag lapel pin back in the day. I'm not like this and more importantly, I don't want to be like this.
I know how to do this kind of patriotism. I was taught it deliberately when I was growing up. My hometown was an industrial town in the Midwest, and my parents were the kids of 1st generation immigrants. They were kids during the depression and came of age during WW II. I'm not at all surprised that the usual kind of patriotism was their style of patriotism.
I didn't grow up learning Bible stuff, but isn't it a Bible verse that says something like "when I was a child, I spoke like a child and acted like a child, but now I am an adult and I speak like an adult and act like an adult"? Well that's how it went for me.
I still don't understand how my parents could have produced me. In the end we thought so differently about the world. Clearly they must have valued freedom of thought because that's what they did give to me. Somewhere along the line as I was growing more into adulthood, I abandoned the usual style of patriotism (and a whole lot of other stuff too).
I joined the Navy while I was in college, but even by then I was thinking differently. And I found that the Navy was really OK with my way of thinking about patriotism. As long as I did my job and pretty much followed the rules, the Navy didn't care whether I waved the flag or not. Now it's kind of cool to be a veteran, and I have no trouble telling people about this stage of my life.
But I still can't act patriotic in the usual kind of way. It's just not authentic to me. If I do the motions, it's just an act.
But what's the alternative? That's the question. I haven't figured that out, and I've been working on it for years.
I keep hearing news stories about how aging Baby Boomers are getting to be more and more conservative and traditionally patriotic lately. Every time I hear that, I want to yell out NOOOOOOOO! NOT ME! But I look like my peers who are, so they say, becoming this way. People might could mistake me for one of my conservative, tea party peers. Perhaps I need to get a peace sign tattooed onto one side of my neck and the woman's equality symbol on the other. Maybe a little rainbow on my forehead would be good too.
Maybe I should go back to wearing long skirts and embroidered peasant blouse made in India. Grow my hair into whatever kind of braid it will still grow. Wear Brike's ALL the time. Honestly I would much rather be stereotyped as an aging hippie than a tea party member.
I was never a real hippie. Give me a break. During the summer of love I was a high school girl in the Midwest who loved her parents. I worked that summer at a local hospital as a nurse aide because I needed the money and I wanted to become a nurse.
But the hippie culture spoke to me and in my way I was a hippie. Hippie values ... peace, love and understanding ... came easily to me. As soon as I discovered the idea of modern feminism, that was it ... that's where I was. Following close behind were the ideas of being a World Citizen and caring about the health of Mother Earth. That's where I have been ever since.
I'm a proud tree-hugging, feminist, world citizen. But didn't others like me develop inside the American culture? Didn't this free country of ours enable us to exist in the first place? So how does a person like me (and my value peers) act patriotically in the present US?
On my last trip to Europe, when I was in the passport line back in the US after a really LONG day of travel, one of the employees said to all of us in the US passport holders' line, just "welcome home." I started to cry. That was a moment when I felt truly patriotic ... when I was home again in the place where I belonged.
America, love it and change it. I guess that's the road I have to take.