Today, we honor the soldiers who have fought for our country. In my own family, my great-grandfather served in World War I. My grandfather fought in World War II, and was awarded a bronze star for heroism in the only battle of the war that was fought on US soil (Attu Alaska, if you are curious). My father served in the Korean War.
I was never in the military. I didn’t want to and they didn’t want me. So, best for everyone.
Today, I wonder what my great-grandfather and grandfather would have thought about the world we live in now. Would they be proud of the direction the country that they bled for has taken or would they be sad?
I don’t have to wonder about my dad. He’s very upset with our country. He’s mad that a black man is president. He wonders whether a Kenyan can legally be president*. He is upset that two men who are in love can get married in most of the country. He is very upset that anyone would even suggest that firearms are dangerous and that anyone shouldn’t be able to carry an assault rifle to get a burrito**.
What’s more, is that a fairly large (but shrinking) percentage of US Citizens agree with my dad.
On the other hand, my grandfather might have been perfectly fine with the recent SCOTUS ruling that says that prayer in city council meetings is fine… provided that the prayer is nonsectarian. My grandfather was a staunch Christian. Largely because of World War II. As he told me, he made a promise during the fighting. He promised that if he got out alive, he would devote his life to god. I can’t fault someone who keeps his promise in that way. Plus, he wasn’t an ass about as some are.
I, of course, have very different opinions on these topics than my direct family members. Of course, I haven’t spoken to my dad in nearly 4 years either.
But that’s what brings my to patriotism. To my dad, I am not a patriot. I’m something he calls a ‘socialist’, though I’m not and he doesn’t know what a socialist is anyway.
I am a patriot. I love the ideas that form the basis of our society… or are supposed to. Freedom of speech… unless you say something that the majority of loud people don’t like. Freedom of religion… unless you’re Muslim, Hindu, Satanist, or Atheist. Liberty… unless you are gay or atheist.
I believe that we, as a nation, have lost a lot of the ideals we started with. And we’ve lost them for the noblest of reasons. We’ve done away with free thinking because it might offend someone. We’ve done away with science because it tells us that we’re wrong. We’ve done away with the ability of the average person to achieve greatness to promote those in control… or rather, those in control have done away with the ability of the average person to achieve greatness in order to maintain themselves.
Some of my fellows here at SIN think that this is the best time to be alive. I don’t disagree. The non-religious are making significant gains. Homosexual marriage is inches away from becoming a common standard and not an exception. The internet has given almost everyone the ability to learn things that only the rarified experts could have learned just a decade or so ago. And now, in 2014, the US is almost to the point where healthcare is universal.
But change doesn’t come without a price. And the people who don’t like these changes have publicly stated that they would rather destroy the country than see it go down this path.
There are those who loudly and violently want to prevent things like healthcare and a living wage here in our own country. Sadly, there is a significant amount of the population who either agree with them or have been duped into following them (I don’t know which I would consider worse).
I feel more like people in other countries than I do some of my own country men. I suspect that this is not an uncommon feeling. That doesn’t mean I’m not a patriot. It means that I think we can be more than we are now.
I subscribe to a humanistic belief system. I believe that we should care for our fellow humans. This includes things like healthcare and treatment for problems (instead of incarceration). I believe that if we hold people responsible for themselves, that they will step up and behave responsibly. I believe that if someone isn’t doing harm, then what should I care what they do? I believe that being able to think critically and support arguments with evidence results in the best possible responses to problems and concerns.
If you were to say these things to the average person, I can’t imagine that anyone would say that these are bad things. I think that the veterans I know would support these things and say that those are the kinds of things that they fought for, whether in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, Iran, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world.
And sometimes, people with power don’t care about those things. And, despite our wishes, the military and the men and women who fight are sometimes called on to defend these ideals, if not for us, then for others who can’t defend themselves from tyrants.
If you have served, thank you for your service to our country and the ideas of freedom and democracy. If you haven’t served, then let’s try to make this a country that our soldiers can be proud of representing and coming home to.
* The fact that Kenya didn’t even exist until after President Obama was born is not the issue. Don’t trouble him with facts.
** I mean, really, burritos can be vicious if they are only wounded.