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patriotism: a rant

I was reading something on the intarwebs (never mind what), when I came across someone commenting "for the longest time, patriotism equalled jingoism to me."

That, right there, is an example of why the rhetorical device of "define our position X by the name of allegedly Good Thing Y" (I forget its actual name, anyone remember?) particularly infuriates me. Not just that it's hard to answer, but that if used endemically enough, it winds up actually shifting the definition, and those of us against X tend to believe that all Y are also suspect until someone finally comes up with a new name for "{Y | ¬X}" -- and even then, the new name may well be less appropriate, less intuitive, or plain old less convenient for everyone. (Seriously, "pedophile" by all logic ought to be an ANTONYM for "pederast," if it hadn't been for a certain set of idiots moving the definition of the latter in the one direction not full of inherently whacked power dynamics.)

Especially when the word in question, such as "patriotic," is something that I have always been pleased to consider myself: it seems as if the definition I grew up with bears as much resemblance to the one certain parties would force on it as "good parenting" does to "holding my child incapable of wrongdoing by virtue of being my kid."

Love of one's country does have rather a lot in common with love of one's children, after all: one holds them precious by virtue of what, if a tie of birth rather than choice, is more a matter of chance than one generally likes to consider; one takes a personal sort of pride in their accomplishments; one feels a deeply personal hurt when they fall short of what one knows they can be; and when they do stupid shit, one darn well CALLS them on it, that they may learn the error of their ways and do better and grow in wisdom and stature with God and all people.

More so, perhaps, even than love of one's parents. Certainly one may consider that everything one's homeland or one's parents do cannot but be right and good -- when one is a small child: but when one grows to adulthood, one learns that they are people, and therefore fallible, and that if they use one for what they can get, or lie and cheat and steal from outsiders, that behavior is not acceptable no matter what blood ties one may have to them. (If they don't: yay, hurray. One is fortunate in one's homeland or one's parents or both, and ideally loves them all the more.) Often enough, one still loves them even while acknowledging their faults: but while it is appropriate for someone to encourage a parent to, say, get help for their alcoholism, the parent is nearly always perceived to be of equal or greater stature than even a grown child, and can be encouraged but not ordered.

A homeland, on the other hand, belongs to its people; it exists because, at one point, its citizens found it more convenient and comfortable for themselves to be part of a greater whole than separate little communities. (As can be readily seen by the fact that of those countries created by people who found it more convenient for OTHERS to be part of a greater whole than separate little communities, the only ones I know of that didn't collapse within a century had developed their own -- albeit ex post facto -- national identity.) Therefore, its citizens have not only a right but a duty to make sure it remains convenient and comfortable for them, that their homeland may be a country they are proud to belong to.

Or, as Paul Fussell suggested in his book BAD: The Dumbing of America (paraphrased, since it's been forever since I last read it): there is one day out of the year, and that is the Fourth of July, when bringing up anything but the best of the U.S.A. (much less challenging it) is just tacky; the rest of the time, it is not only proper but the best kind of patriotism to do so.

(Also: I wish the gentleman at the grocery store wearing the T-shirt with the picture of our flag above the legend "JUST TRY AND BURN THIS" would bother to put the elementary research into learning that firstly, putting such a picture onto a shirt that can get all sweaty and food-stained [as his clearly has] is not particularly respectful and in fact contraindicated, and secondly, that burning is the right and proper thing to do with a flag that wind and weather [and insects, and mustard] have ruined beyond whatever mending the washing machine and sewing kit might be capable of. The same to those people -- and there are many, here in Indiana -- who fly one from their car and leave it up long after the ENTIRE RIGHT HALF has been lost to the elements. You don't see people whose cars proclaim themselves to be former or current members of the armed services pulling the latter stunt, and that would be because they know better [and, presumably, know better than to do the former as well]; but if someone as little concerned with the trappings as myself knows such elementary things about the proper treatment of the United States flag as "take it down [and burn it] when it would otherwise look crummy, better to have none up than a shoddy one" and "don't put an exact replica of it on things that will get dirty, such as napkins, doormats, workout clothes" -- and for that matter "never let it touch the ground" and "don't hang it upside down. No, not even if the shackle's broken. As soon as you notice that it broke, haul it down and do something about it" -- you'd think those people who claim the symbols worthy of veneration because of what they symbolize would have the relevant regulations memorized, and be outright eager to challenge anyone falling short of said regulations to their face.)

I love my country, but dear LORD the people it is made up of have individually and collectively done some stupid shit, over the past few years (to say nothing of the past few centuries). And because of that, I have at times put my mouth or my money where my mind is, but always and annually my vote (whenever applicable): for the ability to use all three and especially the latter as I please is the better part of why, as a grown woman, I still love it even when it makes me want to tear my hair and rend my clothes.

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