Friday, September 16, 2016

Patriotism on the Porch

(I wrote this over a month ago. Before Patriotism and the National Anthem made headline news. Somehow it seems even more relevant.)

Dear Patriot:

You are ruining patriotism for me.
Let me explain:

I have a romanticized version of patriotism in my head. It includes 4th of July parades, honoring vets, in quaint towns sitting on verandas with flag bunting all around.
Doesn't that sound dreamy?
I love flags waving from porches.
I love living in this country.
I love the Norman Rockwell ideals of families praying around tables, and celebrating life together.

And then.
Then I get uncomfortable. A presidential candidate's platform has been to make America great again. Again? Like when? Like when black people had to use the fountain that spewed hot water on a blazing hot day? (Because I have recently learned the "white" people fountains had cooled water. Did you know that? I didn't. I just thought they were separate.) When we had our own little Indian holocaust? When we treated a whole segment of humanity as animals because their skin was darker? When, pray tell, was America great? Was it post WWII when women were hushed away and the price of being a house wife was subservience and silence? When husbands handled the money, and a woman just silently accepted philandering? When "ugly" things were hidden away, and all that was celebrated was the white nuclear family? America has actually always been great, and simultaneously needed to improve. It can be both. It is both.

I yearn for a country that is willing to look honestly at where it has been and where it is going. I yearn for a people of humility. I yearn for the definition of patriot to mean someone whose love of country includes constructive criticism. I yearn for people who can take the long view. Who can logically follow their own desires all the way through their course, and admit when their own desires trample on the desires of others. Whose love of the Constitution is balanced by a love of people, all people. So, for now, my patriotism isn't romanticized. It's gritty. It includes being really uncomfortable on so many levels.

When everyone is welcome on the veranda, that is when America will be great again.

The Complications of Protest


I've posted a lot about Colin K. I'm not sure why I get so wrapped up in these issues, (peaceful protest, respect, and the actual subject of protest,) when I could just as easily wrap myself in the flag, and not notice.

There are so many factors in this situation…and I want to approach them delicately. I share this in humility, as I am part of the problem. On both "sides" if you will. Very recently, I spent ten minutes listening to a coach share his view, and I agreed with him. Then I read a rebuttal from a professor, who gave a different perspective and I agreed with him. Every time I read a new perspective, it changes and reshapes mine.

I completely stand by CK's first amendment right to not demonstrate in symbolic action his allegiance to the flag as a protest that the flag does not currently represent all that he thinks the flag ought to represent. The moment we start requiring people to blindly make gestures of patriotism without protest, we are no longer American.

Here is what his protest is not:
It is not that he's offended by the flag.
It is not that he does not appreciate the sacrifices of service people who have gone before.

All of that said; he is young and naive.
Here is where I do take issue: As a friend pointed out, he is part of an American pastime that involves being some sort of an example to our youth.
I think perhaps the NFL could maybe rethink what they require of their EMPLOYEES before it becomes an issue. What is required of a person as an American and required of a person as an employee are two very separate things. Let's treat them that way.

That said, I'm not sure his gesture was perhaps the most thought through. I really like the essay I shared earlier (link re-posted below), where he states he pledges allegiance to the flag not just for what it stands for and the imperfections, but the hopes for a better future.
Because here's a glitch with CK's protest: When does it end? When you protest something without a measurable solution, when do you stop protesting? I can't judge what was in CK's heart. I won't. That is speculation, and in my book, that's gossip. I can't expect humans to make the "right" choices (whatever those may be) in all circumstances. On the other hand, people would impose a system of how to behave on him, on anyone, that does not really provide opportunity for change. Respect the tension.
He made a choice that is now becoming a dialogue about free speech and flag burning and jersey burning rather than the dialogue that he'd hoped for. Be the bigger person. really.

Can we blame that on him, the negative response? In part, yes. When you make choices, there are consequences. Always. And we often do not know how to calculate for the unintended, because our focus is usually on the intended. That is where we cut people some slack. And, I am editing to add: it's a shame the unintended consequences are even half of what they have been. Sometimes, when trying to shine a light on something, there is no other way, but a way that makes people uncomfortable. Is there some truth in what he is saying? Focus on that. Is there a way of improving? Focus on that. Is there a way to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how you can be part of the solution instead of the problem? Do that. Is there a way to kindly direct anyone who behaves in a way you find disrespectful? There is a way. It's called open, respectful dialogue. It is not accusations and insults hurled. It is not petty memes dragging a person through the mud. Have they made other mistakes related to said protest? Probably. The negative response is also down to the responder. Dismissing a person out of hand will not produce any positive change that either one of you are looking for. Whining about someone whining is just a lot of whining. How sad.
Why do I say all this? Because I read. I see. It needs to be said. Again. and again.

I'd rather focus on the PROBLEM, (which I understand many people would rather side step). But right now, seems like all we can do is focus on the reaction. Which, when all is said and done, is part of the problem.