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.