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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thoughts on Patriotism

This Fourth of July I will be backpacking in Idaho, not watching fireworks.  The backpacking part is cool, the no fireworks is sort of a bummer.  On most 4ths, I find myself wearing red, white, and blue, and thinking about sparklers (yes, I love them with passion; no, they aren't really all that exciting).  This morning I was cold and threw on a cami and a sweater.  I was still too cold so I threw on a hoodie.  I am now wearing black, grey and grey.  Call it camo?

I've never been that huge on patriotism, to be honest.  In the past I've gone with the whole "well if our country really helped the poor and the marginalized, if civil rights were really given to minorities, if we opened up our boarders more... then I would be patriotic."  I'd mention the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
"'Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"
And I would wonder why people can draw imaginary lines across continents and use such lines to dictate wealth or poverty, freedom or oppression, life or death.  I still ask these questions; however, more and more I realize that I just may not be the patriotic type.  Maybe I'm just missing that piece.

I was born in Canada, and spent almost the first four years of my life there; we still have very close friends who live in "America's Hat" and I'm hoping to visit in the next year or so.  The last time I was in Canada I was 17 years old.  So it's been a while, I guess.

On the other hand, my folks don't seem overly-patriotic either, and my brother is a very proud supporter of the True North, Strong and Free.  So maybe my upbringing has something to do with it.

I was 17 years old the last time I said the Pledge of Allegiance.  A boy in my Psychology class didn't say the Pledge along with the rest of us; this made me curious, so I asked his reasons.  "I don't feel comfortable pledging my allegiance to anything but my God."  That made sense to me.  Over the years I've repeated that sentiment, and recently I was told that the Pledge is only REALLY a 'pledge of allegiance' if it is placing itself UNDER GOD.  That made sense in one way, and I was fairly impressed with this person's reasoning, until I started to ask myself, "how do we KNOW if a nation is placing itself UNDER GOD?"  It would seem to me that our country isn't, as we still have such a disparity between the rich and the poor, and we have so many who go hungry every day while some could afford to feed whole cities on a regular basis.  I was told by another person that this "nation placing itself Under God" view, too, was the wrong interpretation.  "No, it's not the country that's 'under God'; you are pledging your allegiance to your country UNDER your allegiance to God."  That seemed even MORE far-fetched to me, so I just haven't said the pledge.  Not that big of a loss. 

When I asked my husband if he considered himself patriotic, he responded, "To an extent."  I asked him what that meant, and he said, "probably not as much as people would want me to be."  He mentioned that he didn't think that America was necessarily superior to other countries, and I would agree.  Our country should be judged on how we treat the most marginalized, the poorest, the lowliest.

And yet.  At times I do feel the pride, I do feel that love of country stirring.  Most of the time it seems to be when I am out in nature, which is the same time I feel a great love for God and this world and all things.  So I think it's a good thing that I'll be out in Idaho, traipsing through a forest, enjoying the beauty this country has to offer.