My Unpatriotic Thouhts

Another September 11th just passed.  We endured another time on social media where images were posted evoking the memory of the tragic attack that took place in New York 14 years ago.  I saw a lot of those images with the words “Never Forget” or “I’m Still Pissed.”

How long are we going to keep doing this?

We live in the age of The Internet.  Nothing is forgotten.  Every selfie posted to social media is forever.  Every victory or mistake that goes viral is broadcast, then rebroadcast.  Everything is recorded, forever.

So how do we heal?

I’m not saying we should forget.  We’ll never forget.  But I think we should quit revisiting the event, picking at it like a wound that will never fully scab over.

Social media doesn’t blow up on December 7th every year.  We don’t make a big deal over February 19th.  Or even April 12th.  If those dates don’t mean anything to you, April 12th, 1861 is when the Civil War started.  December 7th, 1941 is when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  And February 19th, 1942 is the day Roosevelt said it would be okay to round up all the Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps.

If we continue to “celebrate” September 11th the way we do, we will continue to foster impotent rage and bigotry.  I’m not saying we should forget.  I’m saying we should move on.

From what I saw on Facebook a couple of years ago, these thoughts I’m sharing are not entirely popular.  As long as I’m talking about one unpopular idea, I might as well go on about another.

I’m not a fan of the pledge of allegiance.  Every week or so, I see someone post something about having kids recite the pledge in school, and I silently disagree.

Why?  For a number of reasons.

  1. I don’t believe in patriotism for patriotism’s sake.
  2. I take pledges seriously.
  3. I don’t think kids should be forced to pledge into anything that they may not fully understand.

Let’s take those one at a time.

Patriotism is like cheering at a pep rally.

I’m all for celebrating success, but what does it mean to celebrate America for America’s sake?  What specifically are we honoring?  It can’t be our education or diversity.  Check this blog for a number of interesting ways in which America ranks against the rest of the world.

Or check this CNN article.

From what I can tell, the U.S. is not number one in any particular statistic that I want to celebrate.  We have a lot of prisoners and a lot of gun violence.  Yay?

Having said all this, let me make it clear: I do not hate my country.  Far from it.  I think we have the potential for greatness.  I was willing to die for my country when I served in the Air Force, and I’m still willing to die for it, if it means protecting the people I love.  I take my vows seriously.

Which leads to the second bullet point above.  I want to live my life with integrity.  When I say I’m going to do something, I try my best to do it.  I hold honesty as a virtue.  When I sound wishy-washy on a subject, it’s because I’m having difficulty committing fully, because once I commit, I will follow through.

So why should I pledge my allegiance to a flag?  Does that mean if someone bids me to follow while waving the star spangled banner, I should comply?  The flag is just a symbol.  I can’t bring myself to hold it sacred.

The rest of the pledge is okay, though I think it’s flawed.  I’m okay pledging allegiance to the republic, with liberty and justice for all.  And I think we should be one nation, indivisible.  But I don’t think we are, right now.  The two party system, the far left and the far right, have shunned civil discourse, and the internet is amplifying the disharmony.

I don’t identify with either the left or the right.  I know that some of my views are more left leaning, but I’m not an extremist.  I read the news, and I think a lot about what I’m reading and what I’m seeing, so that I can speak and act with integrity on these matters.

As a child, I couldn’t have done this, which is the third point.  I don’t think kids should be required to pledge allegiance, anymore than I think they should be required to pray.  I believe in letting kids find their own way in matters of religion and politics.  They’re heavy subjects.  And forcing kids one way or the other may be pushing them down a path that isn’t healthy for them.

We’re not all going to agree on every subject, all the time.  But that is the promise of our nation, that we can hold to different religions and ideas without being persecuted by the government.

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