Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Proud" to be an American?

A great column by Bethany Woolman on Monday about what it means to be a "patriot."

My favorite comments came at the end of her column:

"I don't pretend to think my country is flawless. And I am not "proud" to be an American. I am fortunate to be an American. My patriotism does not wave the flag and bury its head in the sand. Rather, it stems from the belief that it is possible to regret parts of your country's past, but love the opportunity you have to shape its future.
I once heard someone say that conservatives look at America the way a 3- year-old looks at its parents, and that liberals look at America the way an adult looks at its parents. I'm not sure that either situation is ideal, or even true. After all, ours is a country of the people, by the people, for the people, and if we want to keep it that way, we can't look at America as an authority figure -- we have to look at it as a child we are raising.
Right now, we are raising a nation caught in its "terrible twos." But as we know, all children have the potential for greatness -- all they need is a little direction. "

So, what does everybody think? Is it right for us to be "proud" to be Americans?

Here's the link to that column if you're interested:http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1018-23.htm


Blogger Izdatyel said...

I think she is actually making a very good point. This article reminds me of a little debate my brother got into at work. A "patriotic" song was being played on the radio and, probably feeling a little bored, he noted that something struck him as inherently wrong in singing "I'm proud to be an American." Coincidentally (I kid you not), he made the very same point this author makes; he said that we should be grateful and feel blessed to be Americans - not proud. He supported this claim with a reference to President Benson's address on pride, somewhere in which President Benson teaches that *no* pride is righteous pride, or that *righteous pride* is a false principle.

I think he (and the above author) made a great point, but it was not especially appreciated by one of our coworkers. Of course, the inevitable implied accusations of underdeveloped patriotism and lack of understanding were levied. I was similarly accosted when the subject came up again and I attempted a defense of my brother's position. Is it so hard to understand that we can love that even in which we recognize faults and room for improvement? Notwithstanding one's personal views on Michael Moore, for example, I think one should confess that attacking the man as hating his country is misguided, wrong-headed, and even orwellian. He is doing what he does because he cares about his country and its direction (whether or not you like his direction), well...ok, and for the massive amounts of green stuff too. But hey, isn't that the American way, all you die-hard capitalits?

Is there not something strangely self-centered and paranoid about the line from the famous firework song "And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free." Right - at least you know *you're* free...tough luck to all the other suckas. And even if you place the emphasis on *at least*, as opposed to *I'm*, it sounds a little pessimistic and paranoid doesn't it? Worst of all, of course, is the country-pop twang to the little ditty - but that goes without saying.

I'll cap this comment with a satirically pointed and illustrative quote by Hugh Nibley:
“Patriotism shows itself in times of crisis: ‘These are the times that try men's souls!’ is the refrain of the earliest purely patriotic odes—those of the Greek lyric poets, who describe the true patriot as one who stands shoulder to shoulder with his fellow citizens, facing any odds. In this atmosphere of crisis, an attitude of defense and defiance naturally associates patriotism with the panoply of war…There is something wrong with this patriotism, which is based on conflict... The tradition survives, and to this day there are many whose patriotism is not a widening but a contracting circle… The passion for security ends in total insecurity, with the would-be patriot fancying himself as a lone frontiersman, facing the world with his long rifle, his keen eyes searching the horizon for enemies and finding them everywhere; until one day as he draws his circle even smaller, we find him coolly keeping his next-door neighbor and fellow countrymen in the sights of his trusty .22, lest the latter make a suspicious move in the direction of his two-years' supply.” (Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, p. 250 – 251)
- Hugh Nibley (who served his country faithfully in WWII)

10/20/2004 3:26 AM  
Blogger Jason Work said...

Wow. Could that Hugh Nibley quote describe the so-called "Bush Doctrine" any more perfectly? Why does it seem that we can only be united as a country in war and tragedy? Maybe that's cynical, and I'd love to hear some examples of the country coming together in more peaceful times, but my thoughts turn to the LDS church. One of the greatest unifying forces in the church is the worldwide missionary effort. No matter where you go, members of the church share concern for the thousands of missionaries who are sent out for no other reason than to preach peace. We are bound together because of our common mission, and it's not a mission based on paranoia or fear of the outside world.

By the way, does it tick anyone else off when people have those bumper stickers on their cars that say "Power of Pride" on top of an American flag background? I can't even figure out what it means. Is it some kind of statement of belief? All it tells me is that you're probably a Toby Keith fan ready to put a "boot in the ass" of anyone who dares criticize America.

10/20/2004 9:47 AM  

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