Yankee Doodle Dandy





I should probably begin by telling you that I don’t consider myself patriotic. That may not sit well with many of you, but I am what I am and you know me—I refuse to pretend. I’m not unpatriotic, if that helps. I don’t burn flags or encourage anti-American extremists. I vote and I pay my taxes. But I don’t buy into the notion that my country and its citizens are somehow better, wiser, more deserving, or favored by the Almighty, an attitude I believe is often the at core of patriotism.

Patriotism is an overblown and overused word, if you ask me. Like “hero” or “inspiration,” the word patriot and all of its versions get tossed about like beach balls at Jimmy Buffett concerts. And like those other overused words, they are often attributed to people and actions in ways that are anything but appropriate.

Patriots, by definition, have some big kahunas. They are movers and shakers, the doers of courageous deeds, and are steadfastly dedicated to what they believe is the betterment of their country. They aren’t yes-men. They aren’t party loyalists. And they aren’t armchair activists.

They’re the folks who are willing to risk life, limb, and reputation to stand for change. To demand it. To take it, shake it, and accept nothing short of what they know needs to be done. They are revolutionists. Let me add that while patriotism is generally looked upon as a virtue, I think it’s important to note that the willingness to dedicate oneself to a life of action designed to bring to fruition ones vision for their country usually only looks appealing to those who share that same vision. Revolutionists are likely viewed as dangerous, extremist nutjobs by those with opposing opinions.

Sound familiar? Yes, those folks might be called patriots, too.

During election years, armchair activists ramp up their game. They tweet and Facebook like crazy in an effort to let their friends know just how fired up they are about the state of things. Some post day and night, leaving seemingly little time to tend their jobs and families. They go all in. If asked, I’d guess that many of them would puff out their chests and boast about their patriotism. They are doing something.

Here’s the thing, though. They’re not. For the most part, they aren’t doing diddlysquat beyond providing a giggle or groan from their friends. Facebook patriotism is like reading diet books while sitting on the couch eating cookies. It doesn’t get the job done.

Flag waving, anthem singing, and chest pounding aren’t particularly patriotic behaviors. They’re pageantry. Pageantry is nice, I suppose, as long as the work has been done. If not, it seems beyond inappropriate. It seems a little, well, pathetic. Gravy on a plate with no meat and potatoes beneath. Frosting on a cardboard cake.

I love my country. I do. And I feel incredibly blessed to have been born in a place where it’s safe for me to publicly post my opinions and start a piece out by declaring my lack of patriotism. But love of country does not a patriot make.

I tend to think in terms of world over country. Even the country I love, the one that affords me the right to sneer at it. I’ve said it before, but here’s my thinking on why it’s wrong to focus too much on country—it’s mostly an “us vs. them” thing. Call me a hippie, but I think we’re all part of us and there really isn’t any them.

Let me explain. If the goal is to look out for “us” and my country is more important than yours, it stands to reason that even within my country, there are levels of priority. My state matters more than yours. In my state, my town matters more than the others. Here in town, the folks on my street are of greater importance than those who live on other roads. Those who live at my address matter more than the people next door. And ultimately, making sure my own wants and needs are satisfied takes precedence over anyone else in my home.

Me, me, me, me, me. Ick. I can’t imagine a surer recipe for eliminating any chance at all for world peace than that.

Do I feel blessed to be an American? Absolutely. But that’s not superiority, the root of what most people call patriotism. It’s just plain dumb luck.




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Written for this week’s GBE topic, “Patriotism.” If you’d like to blog with us, just clickety-click. All are welcome!

You wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog. Today’s image courtesy of morgueFile, which offers lots of wonderful, free images for public use.


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36 comments:

  1. We definitely have differing views on how we define patriotism, so with our ideas being vastly on differing geometric planes that never intersect on a time-space continum, I will just say that I love this country too. ;)

    Cheers, Jenn

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    1. :O) Thanks for popping in, Jenn. It's always a treat to see you!

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  2. You may be surprised by this but your old friend Gary Smith agrees with everything you have stated. I also feel that some of these self described "patriots" are the reason our country is in the shape it's in. Trying to force our form of government on other people usually has poor results! However if I state I'm doing this because I'm a patriot, it means that anyone dissenting is, without saying, unpatriotic! B.S.!!!!!

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    1. I'm not surprised, Gary. You and I tend to see just about everything in much the same way!

      Thanks so much for stopping to comment and for sharing the link to this piece. I adore you!

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  3. Oh Word Nerd, I will wrap this post around me like a flag and sing anthems to it. You have so nicely and articulately given voice to so many of the things I believe about patriotism. And that you did it without grouchiness (which has infiltrated every post about this I have started)makes it sheer brilliance. THANK YOU!

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    1. TL, you just made my day. I was expecting this to get me a little grief, but so far, so good! (I haven't read my way down the rest of the comments yet, though...)

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  4. Hell to the yeah on armchair activists and I'd include extremists in that bunch too. It is easy to read an article that only talks about your viewpoint and then post on FB about evil corporations that have no redeeming quality or that the entire government system sucks out and the only way it'll get better is to throw it out. I see that a lot where I reside (apparantly I'm not the only one) and frankly I'm quite sick of it. Being part of a community or nation requires getting out of your armchair and coming up with realistic as well as strong stubborn moves for change. It is the easiest thing to point fingers because you aren't dealing with reality.

    Oh...wow that was kind of angry huh? I haven't been over here parts for awhile and show up angry. You touched a nerve. Great post lady!

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    1. It's so good to see you! I'm hoping things settle down a little after the election, though I think that might be a little optimistic. I'm sure there'll be some growling and boo-hooing, no matter how things turn out.

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  5. I enjoyed reading this brilliantly written piece and I agree with much of it, but I am a patriot and I do believe my country is the best, but not the most important. I believe we should be more separate than we are from the needs of other countries. I think we need to learn to take care of our own much more compassionately and stop sending billions out of country to people who don't care a whoot about us. I want change and I do what I am capable of doing to bring some about. I am only one person, but I am one person with a loud voice and I write and I talk and I listen. It's the listening that is missing from much of plan. We need to listen when countries denounce us as bullies or whatever and pull our dollars out of those places. We need to stop fighting for democracy in other countries when they don't want us to help.
    Having said all of that, I still find myself swelling with humility when I see a service person in uniform or talk with an older vet about their service to our country. I am a patriot because this is my country and I do believe it is the best in the world and will do whatever I can to make it even better.

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    1. Jo, I know you well enough to say that your brand of patriotism never comes across as brash or arrogant. You are proud to be an American and you make choices that support your homeland. Nothin' wrong with that.

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  6. EXCELLANT!!!!!!
    Knee jerk patriotism is the worst.

    I am with you 100%
    God i loved this,thank you!
    You have restored my faith in human kind.

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    1. Margaret, you gave me a great big smile! Thank you for that!!

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  7. Thank you for sharing such a wonderfully insightful viewpoint.


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    1. Thanks so much for coming by to read and for taking the time to comment!

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  8. I think our definitions of patriotism differ, because what I read about how you feel and think defines patriotism to me. I love this country. I think it's the best - for me. I don't think it's superior, I think our nation has thrown our weight around and been a complete bully in some areas. I think we've been a buncha jerks sometimes.

    I also have seen incredible kindness, gratitude, and unbelievable giving come from our country. "Some of my favorite people are Americans." ;-)

    Big hugs to you! Thanks for starting this conversation.

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  9. Beth, I apologize!! I replied to you from my mobile unit and I know better!! THREE REPLIES OMG!!!! Here I stopped by because I couldn't tell if it wen through or not :( Anyway, I'll delete two so it doesn't look like I'm a comment hog!! LOL ♥

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    1. LOL! No worries--I removed the extras. Anyway, I'd much rather three comments than none! :OD

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  10. Hey Beth, great article...thanks! Thoughtful as always and engaging (also as always). Also, what a great GBE2 topic, it forced me to stop for a moment and blog on a non-computer technical topic. Thanks --Mike
    http://reasonable-thought.blogspot.com/2012/11/patriotism-this-weeks-gbe2-writing.html

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    1. Thanks, Mike! I'll pop over to read yours in just a couple minutes!

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  11. Thanks Beth, food for thought. I do hate those armchair or Facebook activists, especially now. I think true patriotism is not just defined by love of country or if we think our country is best, but also, would we die for our country? There are very few of those true patriots around.

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    1. They are definitely a rare breed, Anna. I'm looking forward to next week when at least some of the armchair activists might take a breather. ;O)

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  12. I really, really love and appreciate this post. It gives me hope. Thank you, Beth.

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  13. Beth-

    Always a great read, although from where I sit this country hasn't really had true patriots for quite some time, unless the Constitution is no longer the law of the land and I missed the text/tweet.

    What may (or may not) interest you, is while I agree with your paragraph on how looking out for number one ultimateley leads to selfishness, I would disagree a little bit on that philospophy when it comes to how to run a country.

    The entire point of the Constitution was to avoid a strong central government. The people who left Europe to settle American in the eighteenth century wanted freedom to live their life the way they wanted.

    Our Constitution contemplated a federal government with specifically defined powers so that the states and local governments-and people-could make most of their decisions unfettered.

    So I would argue that your town should matter more than others when it comes to deciding how your town wants to govern, how your schools want to educate, etc.

    I do not think my world view is so much one of "us versus them" as much as us focusing on getting our own house in order.

    Larry

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    1. Larry, I love when you come by to chime in, especially on posts with a political slant. What I'd really love is a world without borders, without countries, without the need to focus so much on self. One where we realize that your hunger matters as much as mine, where your happiness and mine are entwined.

      I get that my desire for such a world is not about to come to fruition. I still want it, though.

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  14. I wanted to do this in separate comments, because when it comes to US rattling its saber and telling other countries how to govern themselves, I am with you ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!!!

    We should butt out, and again, if we followed the Constitution, our founding fathers made it clear that was their intention.

    G W Bush kept saying terrorists "hate us because of our freedom," but it seems to me that they would not know who we were if our CIA were not meddling in their affairs for the past several decades.

    If our way of life were so much better, that in itself would be an inspiration to other countries.

    We should focus (again) on getting our own house in order and leading by example....not by threat of stealth bombers.

    Larry again

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  15. Beth - this was a breath of fresh air. I loved that you so gracefully and eloquently stated your views and the reasoning behing them. I agree with much of what you have posted. This gives me courage to read back through the rest of the posts. I have been so put off by the barrage of the facebook armchair postings (and downright nasty slanderous slant of many of them) that I have shied away from reading the patriotism posts this week. Thanks for the courage to plow forward...

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    1. Thank you, Amy. It's the nastiness and blatant disregard for truth that bothers me the most. I have no problem with people promoting their candidate of choice, but when they resort to behavior that demeans them, I find it hard to watch.

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  16. I'd rather tweet my political posts that use Facebook. When I tweet, I can use hashtags to reach more people... people who I don't know, so I don't worry about offending them. I post politically on FB too, but not nearly as much as on twitter.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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    1. You promote your views, Joyce, but I've seen nothing from you that is hate-filled or ugly--and it isn't a never-ending endeavor. That's entirely different than some of what I've seen. I have five fb friends who post a constant stream of political stuff. Of those five, three stay fairly respectful. Two, though, are so off the charts nuts that I've been tempted to block their posts from my feed until after the election (and maybe a bit longer to allow for the post-election crap that will surely follow).

      Oh, and of those two, one promotes my candidate of choice, so it's not just the other side that gets under my skin. ;O)

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  17. Thanks, Beth. I admit I felt too angry, heartsick and disgusted to weigh in on this topic. You have pretty much given voice to my feelings and thoughts on the subject of patriotism.

    I wish more people could see through the patriotic blather on the part of politicians to their hidden agenda which a small amount of research could easily uncover. I also think we focus too much on the fate of our country and not enough on the fate of our planet.

    Oh well... Sharing is something we're supposed to learn in kindergarten; maybe if we don't learn it then, we don't learn it.

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    1. I'm so fed up self-serving politicians and really, self-serving people, in general. Blech.

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  18. I love this and agree with so very much of it. The kind of patriotism that blindly believes we live in the best, most important country on the planet is exactly the kind of patriotism that keeps us from being a better country on a better planet. Nicely done.

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I'd love to hear what you think. Whether you're reading something that was written two minutes or two years ago, please chime in!