Every one of my friends is an American patriot. Without exception.
And it isn’t that they think the US’s OK, a love of this good country goes to their core… in some instances defines them. Some, maybe most, had at one time made a pattonesque commitment to defend the honor of the USA against all adversaries, foreign or domestic.
You have people nowadays deeply committed to themselves, their jobs, their environment, their retirement, their sports, their children, their iPhones. For me and people I call friends… our red, white and blue flag has deep meaning.
Though in saying this, I’m reminded that the most “patriotic” men in my lifetime were maybe the Germans under Hitler and the Japanese under their emperor. And I wonder if I am as blindly devoted to my country and my leaders as they were… and I think not.
I reckon I’m more Russian… in that the men and women there believe in “Mother” Russia… that their country has a soul. Leaders come and go… from Gorbachev to Putin. Ah, but Russia is forever.
Blind foreign adulation over narrow-minded national ideals is part of the point I want to make here. It’s foreign. Not American.
I love the USA. Its history, geography, cities, forest, music, rivers, language, cooking, culture, diversity, what it does right, wrong, or not at all. It’s hues, and sounds, and liberties… the audacity of its declaration that “All men (and women of this country) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights , that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
What other country has that as part of its founding charter? … that its citizens have a right to a personal pursuit of happiness. Not that the citizenry should bind themselves to some transit leader’s ideals or over-riding commitment to communal living. The American way is to be happy. To be an individual. Certainly it’s the Republican way.
And the American way is to stand up and fight those who don’t respect individual freedoms or want to impede ours.
I was deeply offended by 9/11. Shocked and angry. Went back to work for the CIA to continue to do something to protect my country’s honor.
And one of the first things I did, personally, was to buy one of those American flags to wear on my lapel; wasn’t dressed for work that that pin wasn’t on my coat for all to see.
But then Obama ran for President and what you wore in your lapel had enhanced meaning. You wore the flag, you were devoutly American or an Oath Keeper or something else that was very Fox-newsy.
Somewhere along the line the politicization of the flag pin began to wear thin with me. Didn’t think it had the personal meaning it held for me before. Didn’t want to get involved in the PC of flag pin wearing.
So then what do I wear on my lapel, anymore? I had the choice of not wearing anything – just looking at that button hole wondering about its history. Or to look over that flag pin to other pins I am honored to own… I got a dozen to choose from.
But then through the amazing, determined work of Morris Hitson and Cynthia Blue, I got another pin that I wear now, as shown on my jacket to the left.
It is my 3 year perfect Sunday School attendance at the Congregational Christian Church of Wide Fellowship in the small southern town of Southern Pines. Mom and Dad, especially Mom, was devoted to that church and for what that church stood for. So, sometimes like when I was 8 or 9 to when I was 11 or 12 years old, I went to Sunday School every Sunday… or on vacation we did something of like-value… every Sunday.
I am not a good Christian, necessarily, as a result. Haven’t been to church outside of marriages and funerals for years. Broken most of the 10 commandments, some more than once… like covet. Friends, I have coveted. Done all the 7 deadly sins. Have trouble believing some tenets of the traditional Christian religion. See the possibility in fact Jesus and Mary Magdalane could have been married and had kids, a mortgage, spats when one or the other was tired sometimes.
I rarely give to charities. I’m looked on as a sumbitch by some. Been in jail overnight. Use to drink way too much.
But I have a strong moral compass which was developed in my formative years by my parent’s code of conduct, southern values and what I learned at Sunday School those 3 unbroken years. Who I am is in part what I learned early on.
Don’t remember bad lessons from those Sunday mornings at the Church of Wide Fellowship annex. It was, in fact, my introduction into a personal sense of patriotism. My strong commitment to defend the honor of my country probably started with my matriculation at Sunday school. To believe in something bigger than myself.
So I wear that pin now because it represents the bedrock of my patriotism… it’s like the flag, just more personal. I’m thinking if your participation in FFA, or GSA, or BSA, or HS AAA football or USA Gay midgets or whatever, helped build your appreciation and love of this free culture we call America, then wear the pin that goes with those memories. I’m thinking in many ways it trumps the American flag as your personal guide-on, and should be your lapel accessory of choice.
Also on this subject of patriotism… or conspicuous displays of patriotism… perhaps you’ve seen the following video:
The monument is located way out from Gunnison, Colorado, on what’s known in those parts as Sargents Mesa. It lies at the end of a dirt road that runs along the top of the Continental Divide more than 11,000 feet up in the Rockies. Not a Holiday Inn or MacDonalds within 150 miles. Only accessible for a few months of the year.
It commemorates not only the Americans who died in southeast Asia but also the other nationalities who died trying to preserve peace in South Vietnam… Lao, Cambods, Montagnards, South Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai and Australians…. And it celebrates the more than 3,000,000 million Americans and multi millions of others who fought in that effort. Most who came home, the better or worse for the experience.
I find no solace with the Vietnam Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. It is a testament to the human cost of war, built by politicians mostly, who seem intent on besmirching the sacred sacrifices of those special American servicemen – to hold their names as perpetual hostages - without a word about those who fought that good fight and through the grace of God survived.
If that was meant in respectful memory of those Americans who died while deployed on orders of the US President, it should be across the river in the celebrated grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery or near the Pentagon… to remind future military leaders that they should never be forced into a war by politicians who do not have the will to win.
That black marbled Vietnam Memorial hole in the ground on the mall is to commemorate the war we lost, more than anything. To me it is an anti-war memorial, promoting a vile subliminal Westboro-Baptist-Church-like political message. It was conceived by politicians and is seen more and more by people who haven’t a clue what was involved in SEA combat. Or know anything about a large group of young Americans who answered their country’s call to save a country from being over-run by a hostile communist neighbor. There is no suggestion that some wars are necessary, because some of our enemies only respect force.
Vietnam was my war. I do not believe former Senator Frank Church that the real patriots were those who protested. The real American heroes are those who fought bravely for their country, for their units; some who died, some who lived, but heroes everyone.
And I believe that marble pillar way the hell and gone out from Gunnison, Colorado, on the Continental Divide, with its 31 individual marble plaques laid out around the tall marker as if soldiers in a defensive perimeter….is magnificent. And quiet. And noble. Makes you proud that you had the opportunity to serve, to test your grit, to know the almighty American grunt, to be able to say proudly, “I served my country in war.”
This private place on Sargents Mesa seems hallowed. As a Vietnam vet, you stand next to that monument as if it’s your place. Your reflections somehow welcomed here. And honored.