Sometimes the best I can do for y’all is to send you somewhere else. This is one of those times. Please, please, please go over to HuffPo and read The African American Patriotism Quandry by Leonce Gaiter. Here’s a tease to whet your appetite:
Imagine you were born where you and your parents did not have the rights of most, in which you witnessed the majority laugh at coon-faced parodies of people like you, in which your young self knew that the majority of your countrymen did not consider you quite as human as they were, and felt justified in treating you accordingly. It leaves a scar. It’s a scar many Americans don’t want to see, so they attack those like Michelle Obama who draw attention to it. They call it “grievance.” In fact, it’s just history–yours and mine. There are other scars in America’s history, but few that are treated with such revulsion.
Yeah, it’s all that good and you really need to go read it.
I have a strange relationship with patriotism. I distrust the form of patriotism that shields itself behind flags stuck in front yard grass and weeping eyes staring at Old Glory during some (undeniably) horrendous version of the national anthem at a sporting event. I have no issues with getting weepy at the sound of “the rockets red glare,” but I am cynical enough to doubt that those tears normally belie anything deeper than a superficial love of Mama, God, and country. True patriots should be more willing to burn that flag than to post it in their yard. True patriots should be fighting to keep God out of schools and, thus, protecting the Constitution. True patriots should see the other man’s Mama in his eyes and that, if nothing else, should keep them from hate.
Obama gave a speech on patriotism today. Here is, perhaps, my favorite excerpt:
As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that’s occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.
This is why voting is patriotic, folks. Certainly, mass dissent has proved extremely effective in helping to alter failed practice and policy in our country. But it is the power of the vote that gives us a consistent tool to show our satisfaction or lack thereof in the direction our government is heading.
When Bush (the dubyah variety) was elected to his second term, I was living overseas. I sent in my absentee ballot and prayed, hard, that Americans would not be dumb enough to give him a second term. I was wrong. Collective insanity held sway and we, the people, elected him to a second term. My gut instinct was to stay overseas and never come back to a country so obviously lost in its own propaganda. But my form of patriotism took over and I began dissenting: writing, talking, working to bring about a sea change in politics. We’re on the doorstep. We just have to use those votes, exercise our patriotism, show our dissatisfation with the status quo, dissent.
I can never understand Leonce Gaiter’s perspective on patriotism, no matter how hard I try (and you know I will). All I know for sure is that those who blindly follow and never question cannot call themselves true patriots. Patriotism requires us to evaluate, to question, to call into account our government and to take action when it we find it lacking. The least you can do is vote. To register, visit Rock The Vote.