Friday, July 4, 2008

on patriotism...

my grandfather, a WWII veteran, taught me the finer points of being patriotic. he bled red, white and blue. he always hung the flag outside his home, sang the anthem with vigor, always took off his hat and placed it over his heart for the pledge, and was very gentlemanly, yet confrontational when others didn't pay the same respect. he was a part of the "greatest generation", and he quietly knew it.

recently, i came to a bit of a startling realization. i think, my outward signs of nationalistic pride are more a tribute to my grandfather than a pride for my country. this post is less about you reading it and more about me having a chance to process my thoughts. how am i supposed to know what to think unless i blog about it?

i was not as peeved as others when michelle obama recently said, "for the first time in my adult lifetime i'm really proud of my country." it was a stupid thing for the wife of a presidential candidate to say, but from the perspective of an african-american woman i think i can see the position she was coming from. from purely a bipartisan perspective i'm proud that we finally have an black man as a major candidate for president. i think this is a good thing for america. i don't think this is a sign that we are a post-racial country. i know a woman who wanted more than anything to see hilary win the primary... and now, won't vote for obama simply because he is black. for goodness sake... they are nearly identical in their positions! that's not post-racial.

with general wesley clark's comments this week, the issue of a candidate's patriotism again became a campaign issue. does not wearing a flag pin disqualify you from being a viable candidate?

i think there is a double edged sword principle at play in my own head. if you aren't truly proud to be an american are you putting the correct interests at the forefront of your decision making process? could it be that too much national pride could actually cloud your judgment, making your prone to blind-spots?

would you want a yankees' fan as the general manager for your boston redsox? on the other hand, would it be a good decision to put the guy who sits in the dogpound, who paints his chest, who drinks a little two much on sundays make the decisions for the cleveland browns?

in leadership, emotions must always be an arm's length away.

so, with issues of patriotism here is where i stand:

am i proud of america? yes, i think it is the best governmental structure there is. however, i don't agree with all the policies and laws that govern our land. i think the constitution is brilliant but i don't view the "founding fathers" as particularly heroic (many were after all slave owners). i respect the president of the united states, but let's not even go there.

will i say the pledge? i don't know. i haven't been in a public forum in which the pledge has been recited since i can remember. as a follower of jesus, my only allegiance is to him. perhaps i'm a little too literal but, the words of the pledge bother me a little. having "one nation, under god" at the end doesn't absolve it in my mind.

will i sing the national anthem? i don't think the cincinnati reds are going to call me anytime soon to sing... better chance they would ask me to play center field. yes, i will sing. i have no problem with the national anthem as the lyrics speak to national pride and unlike the pledge, asks for no formal commitment.

would i swear on the bible? no. i would make a vow to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth but, i don't think placing my hand on the bible raises the stakes any higher for me. the bible tells me to, i'll let my yes be yes, and my no, no (james 5:12). i think following jesus is a bit like always being under oath.

do i think the american flag should be displayed in church? no, unless it is one of many representing diversity. i think the flag has no place on the stage as it is displayed in many churches. the church is sovereign ground in my mind. god is not american, republican, democratic, male or female. i hate the saying, "god bless america". i think it is god's desire to bless everyone regardless of where they live or what nationality they are. i think it is egotistical to think that god's on our side because we are americans. it's like a beer league softball team praying that they will win before a game... a little self absorbed.

should there be an constitutional amendment to ban flag burning? no. the people who burn the flag are burning the very symbol of the freedom they have... to burn the flag. in my opinion it's free speech. i would never do it, and find it utterly disrespectful, but i couldn't in clear conscience ban it legislatively.

again, this post has been less for you and more for me. as you can see my thoughts are still a little in the formation process and i'm open to input and discussion. what do you think?

PS... after watching fireworks for the last two nights, i think they last too long.  last year was the ultimate.  all night it appeared as if the skies were going to open up at any point... five minutes into the show it started to thunder. someone made the correct executive decision and they proceeded to launch 25 minutes of fireworks in three minutes. THIS made me truly proud to be an american. 



John Arns said...

You made a good point about the church being sovereign ground; I agree with you saying that God is not American, democrat or republican -- and that God does want to bless everyone, regardless of nationality. We shouldn't think were above anyone simply because we are Americans; we SHOULD be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to our merciful Lord Jesus for the blessings He bestows that we don't "deserve".

Joe said...

Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder...worth a google.

John Arns said...

Thanks for the names, Joe.

LTorres said...

Maybe you should look at “God Bless America” as Intercessory Prayer.

Nehemiah was great in many areas even a love for his land. He wasn’t happy with the way things were so he changed them. There was p r o b a b l y some intercessory prayer related to his work that looked like God Bless America language.

The love of ones country and the willingness to sacrifice for it was why we call them the greatest generation.

It seems to me that our nation could use more patriots not less.

I’m just say’n.