On Being Patriotic

The list of adjectives I assign to myself is pretty long: clumsy, organized, competent, uptight, etc. One that might surprise you: patriotic. I fully understand what it means to be an American and am darned happy about living here. But, I have a beef (that part won't surprise you). I've grown tired of certain segments of the population thinking that they've cornered the market on patriotism or that they can dictate precisely how the rest of us express ourselves when it comes to our shared country and flag.

Sometimes it seems like the Toby-Keith-boot-in-yer-ass brand of patriotism drowns out the rest of us. For the record, I don't believe that patriotism requires a love of NASCAR, a disdain for immigrants, a Republican voting record, or a preference for country music. Nor does it require adherence to a specific religion.

I've seen Facebook posts from some of my friends and acquaintances that call for all of us to return to the "Christian principles on which our country was founded." Did you know that John Adams and John Quincy Adams were Unitarian? It's a little presumptuous to believe that every person walking around New England in 1776 subscribed to precisely the same religious beliefs. I know a lot of nice Christian people but have trouble with the whole American = Christian = Incontrovertibly Good Person scenario. I have a friend who's Buddhist - is she allowed to fly the stars and stripes on her flagpole?

The other common refrain is for immigrants to "learn the language, damnit!" Or at least that's what the bumper stickers tout.

As Jack White (in the White Stripes song "Icky Thump") so aptly sang:

White Americans
What? Nothin' better to do?

Why don't you kick yourself out
You're an immigrant too.

Who's using who?
What should we do?
Well you can't be a pimp
And a prostitute too.

It's hard to say it much better than that.  Should recent immigrants learn English?  I don't know. Maybe. But if they choose not to, they're really only inconveniencing themselves, don't you think? Honestly, I'm pretty well convinced that there are plenty of red-blooded Americans born right here in the U.S of A. who speak the language so poorly that it's barely recognizable as their native tongue. You should see some of the adoption applications we get through the rescue. Sometimes we have to read them over and over again and take our best guess as to what the applicant was trying to say. (As a side note, if you cannot spell Shih Tzu, you may not own one. That's my proclamation.)

I feel fortunate that I grew up so close to the nation's capital. It was a diverse environment, to say the least. I had friends whose parents hailed from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, Spain, and India. In my mind, an American citizen is an American citizen (and, in fact, passing the citizenship test requires a greater knowledge of American history than most of us have stored in our brains). I don't get to be "more American" because my family got here a little earlier than some. I found it so disheartening, after 9/11, to learn of the rampant violent acts that occurred against American citizens who just happened to be brown. There were reports of hate crimes against Sikhs, Pakistani-Americans, and others who had no connection whatsoever to Islam, Al Qaeda, etc. For that matter, declaring open season on Americans who practice Islam is another shameful chapter. Sure, there are people across the globe who hate Americans and some of them are downright dangerous, but throwing out the baby with the bathwater seems awfully short-sighted and, well, un-American.
I have an American flag and fly it proudly. I married a Marine who gave four years of service to our country. I stand when I hear the national anthem and raise my right hand to my heart. I don't support the war but I do support the troops. I vote. I appreciate the fact that I can freely criticize my government if I feel like it, work wherever I want, and practice any religion I choose. Just don't tell me you're somehow a better citizen than I am. I'll shove a boot in yer ass.


Anonymous said…
This is a very well-written piece. Thank you for sharing.
Angela Z. said…
You have expressed what I believe but cannot find the words for...thank you!!! I can't understand the hate that comes from some people--we are all in this crazy world together and I do not believe being Christian means being right or good...being right or good means being positive and helpful and supportive of one another regardless of religious affiliation or ethnicity....there are way more non-Christians in this world and they are just as inclined to believe they have it all figured out. I believe none of us do so let's just hang in together and fumble through life having each others' backs :)
Just moved to CA from WI and I recieve a tweet saying something about a Wisconsin mom...so without looking I look it up and OH JOY! Could not have said it better myself! Now I miss WI..(mainly Madison)...so much more. :/ Awesome blog btw. :)
cara said…
Agree wholeheartedly!

I am tired of certain groups corning the market on "values".

I am tired of being told if I support a protest that its un-American. Speaking out against something is a high form of patriotism: defending conceptual borders and protecting the helpless.

I am tired of having to PROVE I am Patriotic by having to point out that I was raised by a Marine & my grandfather was a WWII Navy Scout & Raider. (original SEALs) I don't want to have to say, well I have "friends" who are patriotic. My dad always said, "He who takes Sh@@ deserves sh@@" (Marine talk) and if I do, he'll put a size 12 up my a@@.(he really was kind,, I swear) So I am speaking out, voting for someone other than a GOP, and so glad people like you are speaking out also. Keep up the great rescue work, I do work here in Va. and see firsthand the troubles this economy has had on the poor pets.
Anonymous said…
Very nice, well written piece. Thank you for expressing so well the thoughts I have had so often. It's exhausting and demoralizing to know in your heart how much you love this country and to continually have reflected back to you that, b/c of whatever, you don't fit the image of a "true" patriot. One of the reasons that I support all the Occupy movements now is that what you expressed seems to be one of the understandings that they embody.
Thank you so much!
Andrea said…
Thanks for such a great piece! Found your blog from Michael Moore's FB Page----best wishes to you and your family!
Well said! I feel the same way and the overwhelming recent attention to the really out there and absurd conservatives has been extremely disheartening. It's good to see people who still have some logic and compassion!
Katy Waitt said…
Thank you for you eloquent piece. Congratulations on being M. Moore's winner of contest. Thank you for donating to animal shelter. Glad M. Moore found you for the rest of us.
Katy Waitt
Estrellita said…
I am in complete agreement with you! I am tired of hypocrites defining what it means to be an American. Wonderful post!
Anonymous said…
Awesome piece! I'm a Marine-gun-toting-NRA- member-mountain-loving-Coloradoan-flag-flying-peace-loving-anti-war-combat-veteran...who believes that universal health care should be instituted, and that corporate greed and banksterism has run amok. I could rant for days about my general discontent with America right now, but you succinctly stated many of my own beliefs and feelings.

Again, awesome piece and keep up the good work. Oh, and SEMPER FI! :)
Patti Winker said…
Such a welcome, well thought out, look at patriotism. I, too, get tired of being thought of as somehow less patriotic than others because I don't adhere to a right-wing/fundamentalist view.

To me patriotism means that I AM my 'brother's keeper.' I owe my fellow citizens the same respect I expect from them, as well as all the same benefits I get by simply being an American - regardless of race, creed, color, financial status, employment, music choice, sports choice, religious choice, or any other lifestyle choice or situation.

I stand when the flag goes by in a parade. I sing the National Anthem. My Mom and Dad, my husband, as well as several of my siblings, served in the military.

I am a Liberal AND I am a patriotic American.

Thank you for giving all of us Patriots a voice. Because I, too, am getting tired of getting drowned out by the shouting.
Llenar said…
CONGRATULATIONS on winning MM's Tweet contest. Your blog is GREAT! As others have said, you've expressed many of my thoughts and rants. THANK YOU.
Anonymous said…
I'm a first generation immigrant hailing from Indonesia. I was naturalized under my parents when I was 10, and took the oath myself at the age of 21, after I was discharged from the US Army which I volunteered for when I turned 17 in 1974. I consider myself an American as much as the next guy, because we're all immigrants or off springs. Bottom line is unless you're Native American, you're not truly native. Thanks for writing such a great essay that reflects my own beliefs.
Mario Cee said…
Fantastic! I posted your link on FB and hope you get more readers. This is great! I also love your Springsteen quote as your tagline! "... and that's alright with me."
Estrellita said…
I already commented once, but I wanted to share a quote I read last night which really hit home for me due to my frustration with people in the public eye referring to others as unpatriotic and "unamerican."
“Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”
-Mark Twain
JD said…
First, congrats on winning the MM contest! Second, thank you for writing this post.

And third, your subtitle is a line from my favorite Bruce song.

Hoo-ahh. Fantastic.
Diane Spagnolo said…
Very well said "Alabaster Mom" Keep up the good work both writing and taking care of those doggies that need you. You make me proud to be an American!
Anonymous said…
nice people rock
Carlos said…
Outstanding text. Brilliant, eloquent, and blindingly clear. But most importantly: Human (and Universal).

Always thought Icky Thump is a perfect piece of writing as well.

And here's another small contribution, this is by Hendrix:

I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Then I take my spirit and I smash my mirrors
And now the whole world is here for me to see.

Patriotism ,in some respects, is like marriage: it's the small things that matter.

Thank you.
Regards from Mexico City.
(I am Mexican and I hope the spelling is not that bad).
Buzz said…
Just thanks!
Very well written. Reminds me of...

"I find it difficult to believe that I belong to such an idiotic, rotten species — the species that actually boasts of its freedom of will, heroism on command, senseless violence, and all of the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism."
~ Albert Einstein
Vaughn said…

I think it's fear, self-esteem issues or plain ignorance growing up in a prejudicial environment, lacking role models that espouse fairness, equality and justice for all.

It's easy to become apathetic, discouraged, outraged, misdirected in a world gone mad from capitalistic corruption, greed, hatred and war.

It is in these time that people like yourself become examples for others, not so much to criticize but by their deeds and actions as loving and caring human beings. That it's o.k. to disagree with someone or something but not to engender a racist hatred.

We all share this planet together and we the public shall and must reclaim our sovereign rights by standing against the tyranny, fear and corruption.

With people like yourself that are indeed the majority, we shall prevail not through violence but through understanding.

Thank you for your courage.
Jimmy Edwards said…
I am at it again and I need your help, could you read and sign this petition and pass it on to your family and friends to sign, thanks.


You can view and sign the petition here, anyone 13 and older :

Please help me get US citizenship for my daughter and others.
Unknown said…
Thank you. I appreciate your post very much, just subscribed to your blog and re-posted this on Facebook. But I must say that patriotism does not require flag waving, or anthem signing, or supporting the troops. It is purely and simply firm belief in the principles that make this nation great: liberty and justice for all. Respectfully yours, Frank X White http://experiencedrivenlife.blogspot.com/
This is a great description of what patriotism is and should be. Because of the NWO, New World Order, in order to be patriotic these days, it seems you have to hate something, somebody, some faith or some culture so that war can be justified and killing can be condoned. The NWO wouldnt be tolerated without this hatred of other countries which allows the taking of and rebuilding of other lands and peoples. Its much easier to wage a war when the population has a heart full of hatred for another population. Thats why we have a generation of children and young adults addicted to violent video games dipicting war and destruction...designed to desensitize their emotions and caring for their fellow man. Our government used to ban such things from our children...but for some reason, its everywhere now....NWO is large and in charge it seems.
Scott Sheperd said…
Love this post and love your attitude.
Anonymous said…
Speaking as a Native American disabled Veteran, I love this message. I am a patriot, I am proud of my heritage, I loathe the political media. I personally think if you list your job as "pundit" the entire American public has the right to PUNT you in the fork once. The line about Christian Values kind of cracked me up as I've often said that the Christian Right is neither truly Christian nor Right. The teacher commonly known as Christ taught Love Others as You Love Yourself (Do they? no), he taught compassion (where's theirs?), he taught kindness and charity (do they have any?)....These are what I consider to be the real Christian values. I also know that our "founding fathers" had long debates about religion as none of them could agree, but they treated each other with respect in the process. Now it's "if you're not with me, you must be al-Qaeda".
Kathi Instone said…
We have a group here in Poughkeepsie that thinks that patriotism means having the most American flags. I would like to stitch your post on a flag and wave it at them!! Thanks for a great post!!
ddcrow01 said…
God bless the Dixie Chicks and Taylor Swift and forgive the Likes of Bill O`Rilley .

Repeal breed banned Laws Everywhere,Justice for all includes all God`s creatures
Cherry Dee said…
I am so glad you won the Michal Moore Tweet contest so I could be linked to this piece! Love the Icky Thump reference! Rock on sista!
Anonymous said…
Love the blog. Congrats on winning - you deserve it. So proud to be a fellow Green Bay resident right now! It's nice to know that not all people from Green Bay are super conservative.
Mat Mfara said…
Please help us campaign for the Amerasian cause.

These people have at least one American parent but are DENIED citizenship or even a VISA to come to the US to reunite with their US parent
Anonymous said…
BTW, Toby Keith is a Democrat......
Anonymous said…
Excellent, and I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a proud progressive mother and grandmother, born in the USA. It's absolutely patriotic to fight for what you believe in and protest what you don't. Keep up the good work!
Anonymous said…
Treaty of Tripoli Article 11
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Ratified by the US Senate with President John Adams signature on 10 June, 1797
Anonymous said…
The problem with socialism is that after awhile you run out of other peoples money.

Those that beat their guns into plows will plow for those that don't.

I worked as a domestic for my whole career, but I can't for the life of me figure out why I have a right to what someone else earned. I DO NOT!!! Yet some of you seen to think that "justice" means that I do.

Am American with a different perspective.
carlbigguy said…
Thanks for your very clear, concise, most excellent and poignant expression that reflects my own views so well about my right to be a far left liberal and that I can still be a Christian in every sense of the name without being a far right leaning or even self-righteous man. I believe it is healthy for any situation to look at issues from both sides of the fence so-to-speak. I am the Yin for the Far right Yang. God bless Michael Moore and Occupy Wall Street and may the Lord use this all to refine us all as by trials of fire to remove the dross from the American political system, too! Change is so necessary when things shift unfavorably to one side or the other with no equilibrium balance. If a spinning ball or gyroscope was as unbalanced as America has become in the past 30 plus years either would be on track for destruction if not re-centered by effectual forces one way or the other in counterpoint to return reasonable control.

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