Intentional Patriotism

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2016!  Let’s get some great writing done this year.

Before I get back to working on fiction, I want to take a moment to talk about patriotism.  I don’t want to get too much into politics.  I just want to get some thoughts about America out of my heart and mind before my chest bursts.

For starters, I don’t know if anyone else would consider me patriotic.  I have a few idiosyncrasies which separate me from what comes to mind when imagining an American patriot.  For example, I don’t like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

“But Brian!” exclaimed Strawman Number One. “Why not?  Are you some kind of Communist scum?”

“Is it because of the ‘under God’ part?” asked Strawman Number Two.

No, it’s neither of those things.  It’s actually much simpler than that.  There are two main reasons I don’t care to recite it.

  1. I don’t like pledging allegiance to a flag.
  2. A person of integrity shouldn’t have to pledge their allegiance more than once.

That’s it.  There are a couple of other reasons, but those are the main two.  Let’s break them down.

Why should anyone pledge their allegiance to a flag?  If it were stated, “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America,” then I’d probably be okay with it.  But the flag?  What does that even mean?  If someone were to run down the street with Old Glory snapping and waiving on a stick above them, are those that pledged allegiance obligated to run behind?  It doesn’t make any sense to me.

It makes me question the use of flags.  As I see it, the practical uses of a flag are to mark property or to distinguish armies from one another.  Everything beyond that is semi-mystical fiddle-faddle.

As to the second reason, I joined the Air Force.  When I joined, I took an oath of enlistment.  Here are the words:

“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

When I swore that oath, I did so without reservations, and without an expiration date.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m still under oath to support and defend the Constitution, and will be until either I’m dead, or there is nothing left to defend.

So why should I pledge allegiance again?

I don’t care for mindless rituals.  I’m very uncomfortable with the notion of mixing patriotism and faith or religion.

As to the “under God” part?  I honestly don’t care.  In my opinion, if someone has a problem with that part of the pledge of the allegiance, they can just omit that part, or replace it with the name of their deity.

But since I’ve spent so much time talking about the pledge of allegiance, let’s focus on a part of it that should make people concerned.  There is another word in the pledge that people should take much more seriously.  Here is the full pledge, with the word I’m talking about bolded for emphasis.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Indivisible.  That is, “unable to be divided or separated.”

Looking around our nation, we are divided or separated on everything.  Partisanship is so prevalent that people aren’t listening to each other.  We are divided on matters of political affiliation, gender, race, sexual preference, geographical location, economic status… you name it, we are polarized about it.  And from my perspective, it’s getting worse.

I don’t know what to do about it.  I’ve spent a great deal of time in this post describing how I might not be considered a patriot, but here’s the simple truth: I love my country.  It’s my home.  I want to see it prosper.  I want everyone that chooses to live here to have life, liberty, health, and happiness.

How can we make this a better place?  For starters, I think we should listen more than we talk.  When our president announced his plans for tightening gun laws, I think our first response should have been to listen carefully, and not immediately flee to social media to post misinformed memes.

We need more intelligent conversations, and less parroting of propaganda.  We need calm assertiveness more than we need frantic aggressiveness.  We need maturity and a willingness to compromise, not name calling and blind stubbornness.

This is an election year.  Maybe the first step is to become informed.  Let’s look at what each candidate is actually saying, and what they’re doing, and not make quick decisions based on their gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

And then, once we’re informed, let’s be true patriots and vote our conscience.