for release Friday July 1, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Looking at Patriotism Another Way
“Why don’t you write about patriotism sometime?” a local man asked me recently. Inside I knew: probably because I won’t write the column that you want me to write. And I don’t like to make people mad at me.
I remember the first time it really hit me that while Americans think their country is the greatest in the world, people in other countries really believe their country is, too. I was living in Spain, and I remember hearing my friends there talk about their country in the same fond, glowing, patriotic terms that we often think is just a thing that Americans do. (And of course, people in Canada and Mexico live on the continent of North America too, so while it is more proper to call this country the U.S. or United States of America, for the purposes of this article I’ll use what we often use as shorthand, America.)
Loving one’s country of origin or naturalization is as natural as loving your mother and father—the place and people that birthed you, nurtured you, and gave you the resources to grow and become who you are. But just as we love our parents and don’t always agree with them or what they do, just so we can love our country and not always agree with it and what it does.
Love of country should be kept separate in our minds from our love of God. I love God and believe in the Christian faith, and I believe the Christian faith has done a lot to help some persons in the U.S. become good, loyal and law-abiding citizens, but danger lurks when love for country and God become synonymous. Think about the many Christians in Germany who believed what Hitler was doing was good and followed him uncritically.
Love of country doesn’t mean we should be uncritical. Someone else has put it this way: Why isn’t it patriotic to love your country so much that you want it to become an even better place?
Why is it lack of patriotism to serve your country in a way other than fighting?
Why is it called yellow or chicken to believe in something so much you would die for your beliefs—but not kill for them? Doesn’t it take more real guts to face enemies totally unarmed than with a gun in your hand?
These are the thoughts that are on my mind as the fighting and killing in Iraq drags on and on and as the countries of Canada and the U.S. celebrate their traditional patriotic days of July 1 and July 4.
When we think of July 4, we think of course about the Revolutionary War and it begs the question, why, if we celebrate Independence Day, do we consider it disloyal to question authority? What did the founders of our country do but question authority—and look for what they thought would be a better way to be governed?
In mid-June of this year, a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Congress, led by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), introduced a “Withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq Resolution” calling for the administration to announce a plan by the end of the year for troop withdrawal and to initiate the plan as soon as possible. A small but growing majority of persons in the U.S. support an end to the war (and I’ve just made the other 42-48 percent mad).
The man who asked me to write about patriotism had a step-son serving in Iraq. I ran into a group of kids in an airport coming home from a tour of duty in Iraq, and they were talking freely with other passengers about their experiences. They actually impressed me with their maturity and levelheadness—not all gung ho and unthinkingly macho. They talked about liking the food in the local restaurants in Iraq better than the packaged army food. We not only want more of those young men and women to come home alive, I’m sure we agree we want to create a world where there is more security and safety, not less. There are many people who believe that unfortunately, the world has been destabilized by the war in Iraq, rather than made more secure. There are differing opinions—and tactics, for achieving this mutual goal.
In the end, loving one’s country is a good thing: it produces persons who unselfishly give of themselves, even their lives, for a greater cause. I respect that and grant them that right. However, love of country also produces persons who have been brought up to believe that there is a higher cause than country, and that is God’s cause. Many persons of faith believe they cannot kill another human being, no matter what. Do not the U.S. and Canada stand for freedom of choice? Thus some work to find other ways to serve humanity, push for higher goals for their beloved country, and new ways to work for and defend freedom.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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