Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Proud to be an American...?

In case you didn't know, I'm a boy scout. I'm a part of Troop 61, and we meet every Mon. night at Westside Bible church in Meridian. I enjoy scouts, even if I get mocked by some of my friends at school about it ;)

Last Monday we had a guest speaker- a lady who had recently gotten her American citizenship after immigrating from Ireland when she was 16 with her family. Basically she just told us all the things she had to do to become an American citizen, what that means, etc. She even asked us a couple questions from the test.
(One of them was "Who is the head of the Supreme Court? What's his name?" I said Chief Justice Roberts when no one else could figure it out. Apparently not everyone heard about the blunder that made him famous.)

The thing that struck me most about this woman wasn't the process she had to go through to get her citizenship (although that was impressive.) Rather, I found her level of patriotism to the United States incredible! She spoke about our country as if it were heaven. In fact, before she was an American citizen she wouldn't touch an American flag out of respect, and because she felt that if she were to let it touch the ground, or defy it in any way, she would be disrespecting the entire country more so because she wasn't yet a citizen.

What hit me the most about this wasn't a sense of guilt, such as "I have so much to be thankful for, and am taking advantage of so much!" I know the freedoms this country gives me, and I am grateful for them. I do participate in being a citizen by staying informed politically, by following the laws even when I don't agree with them 100%, and by praying for America's leaders frequently. I don't, however, have a large degree of respect for the country itself. I see America as extremely corrupt, and getting worse everyday.
Like I said, this isn't to say I'm not glad I live in America, because I am. I'm no terrorist, I simply don't exactly know what it means to be patriotic. Is patriotism being thankful? Is it waving a flag around on the fourth of July? Is it saying the pledge of allegiance?

On that note, what about the pledge of allegiance? When I say it am I pledging to the ever-degrading American society? Or am I pledging to the ideals that America was founded upon? I'm honestly not sure. If the latter, I'll say it everyday, any day. If the former, I don't see much of a point.

What do you think?


  1. Hi Colin,

    I found your blog because I have a Google alert on "American Flag".

    I understand what you are questioning. When I call myself an American, sometimes there is a feeling of defensiveness mixed in with the immense pride. I might not like alot of what is going on out there but, for me, the point is to remain proud and patriotic in spite of it. That is the true test.

    I love the ideals on which this country was founded. There is nothing else like it anywhere. I remain proud of the original concepts of what made us the USA. That is the strongest course of action to getting back there someday.

    It is the same reason that the Jewish faith doesn't allow the rewriting of the bible in any form but its original. If a person is making choices based upon someone else's interpretation and not on the original, then they are not really making a true choice based upon what they think are the facts. With every interpretation, something has been omitted or changed. And, having been in the local news myself lately, I know that one word can change the meaning of an entire thought or sentence.

    I am a New Yorker who experienced 9/11 first hand. For the past 6 years I have been working on my own project, The Americana Stars Memorial. When completed, it will be over 200 feet long, all hand cross-stitched. If you would like, you can read all about it at or

    Being proud to be an American goes beyond what anyone else in the country is doing. It is about how I feel about what this country offers me in the freedom and opportunities to make those choices for myself without intervention. I have always been, am still and will always be proud and grateful to be an American.

    Best regards,

    Doreen Lynn Saunders,

  2. Doreen-
    Wow! Thanks for the comment and feedback! I'll definitely take a look at your blog!

    I suppose the events of 9/11 instilled a sense of patriotism in EVERY American, regardless of race, origin, etc. I felt like that moment of intense emotion and conflict really brought this country together.
    But why do we need a disaster of such huge proportions as 9/11 to bring us together? That's what really hangs me up- can Americans be patriotic in the midst of good times? It seems like bad times breed hope, and good times breed complacency.

    Totally respect what you're doing with the memorial, and I'll be staying tuned!

  3. Colin,

    Unfortunately, it is human nature to believe the negative before the positive. I think it has something to do with the preservation/survival instinct. But when things happen that are truly bad, the preservation instinct has to go to the positive because the negative seems too imminent at that moment. Again, it’s about preservation.

    It was because of our founding fathers' profound courage in not letting the negative keep them down that they were able to start this country in the first place. Their ideals have been proven long enough that I will continue to believe in them without intervention from anyone who says that this country is wrong or irrelevant.

    These thoughts are patriotic, not political. In spite of everything that goes wrong here, we have so much more that is right. Politics is a mental element. Patriotism is an emotional element. Emotion trumps mental every time. We take in all of the information, process it (mental) and the result is how we decide to feel about it (emotional).

    I think that is why we can have a two party system. Regardless of the differences between them, ultimately they are both united in their desire to do what is best for the USA. I guess some people just need a disaster to remind them about what is important and how they truly feel. That is when they express their patriotism. The bottom line - follow your thoughts and feelings your way. No one can take that away from you unless you let them.

    I am not a political person by any means. But I enjoy being patriotic all year long.

    Regards, Doreen

  4. Doreen-
    Can I throw a spiritual aspect at you?
    Where does God fit into all this?

    I believe the inherent flaw in our system of Government is that we're too caught up in the mental and emotional side of things. You said that "Emotion trumps mental every time. We take in all of the information, process it (mental) and the result is how we decide to feel about it (emotional)." I would suggest there's a third category. How are we able to decide how we feel about it?

    In my opinion, there's a difference between living in my emotions (how I FEEL at any given time, influenced by circumstances) and living in my heart (WHO I am.)

    In an almost "Star Wars-esque" kind of way, I think "follow your emotions" is, in one sense, a cop-out. I believe that if people in society were to be 100% real with themselves, and others, about where they're at, what they're dealing with, and who they actually are, there would be an inherent sense of patriotism. In that case, it may not specifically be directed at the country, but rather at all the people under the banner of freedom that the country provides.

    I do whole-heartily agree with you on the issue of "survival" etc. Sometimes to see the good, I have to be able to compare it with the bad. On the flip side, when all I see is good, the bad shows through even more.

    So my question to you is this, in living in one's heart, where do you believe God fits in to patriotism?

  5. Doreen inadvertently hit on the very reason patriotism is so dangerous- it rests on emotion (and props to you, Colin, for pointing this out).

    However one wishes to define patriotism, it often reveals itself in reality as patriotism towards the state. 9/11 offers a perfect example of how the state uses patriotism to enlarge itself at society’s expense. Remember, after 9/11 it became “unpatriotic” to question the President, Congress, or the military. Essentially every part of the state was immune from criticism or, they informed us, “the terrorists would win.” There is a reason, after all, that they called it the “Patriot Act.” And thus, our government robbed us of more of our freedoms, our money, and launched to immoral wars halfway around the world.
    To students of history this should not be surprising. Governments throughout time have used patriotism as a justification for every sort of totalitarian action. Governments LOVE patriotism. People like Doreen make it so that the government doesn’t even have to break a sweat taking our freedoms. Doreen actually believes the two parties are “united” in a desire to do best for America.
    This is a joke.

    The two parties have worked nearly in concert for the past sixty years enlarging the size of government, increasing its influence over society, taking our money, and waging hegemonic wars around the globe. And Doreen thinks they are working to better her? That’s exactly what they want her to think. Patriotism comes from not recognizing the nature of the state. The state is not some neutral actor. Government’s nature is to forever grow larger and larger and more totalitarian. The more unquestioning obedience the better. There has NEVER been an example in all of history of a state ever growing smaller and decreasing in influence over society (aside from external causes like invading armies and internal revolution). Ever. This is an important point to remember.

    There is a legitimate place for love of society, but it has to be carefully separated from the government. “Society” is held together voluntarily, and depends on voluntarism. It is held together by culture, religion, family, and the marketplace. The state, on the other hand, exists purely by force and coercion. The two cannot coexist peacefully. Every time government grows it negatively affects the peaceful, voluntary nature of society.

    Patriotism and pledging allegiance to the flag serve only to excuse- and support- the ever growing state. We NEED to be negative! We NEED to focus on the bad. Good times don't breed complacency, patriotism does.
    Just my two cents.

  6. Colin,

    Sam’s posting is exactly why I do not get into discussions, political or otherwise, by email or blog. A simple conversation about patriotism has been misinterpreted and stretched into something that no longer resembles my attempt to just give my thoughts about feeling patriotic.

    I may sound idealistic, but that does not preclude me from having a brain for serious thought. My patriotism does not make me just follow whoever is in government like some robot that gets reprogrammed every 2 or 4 years. Emotion is one thing. Intelligence is quite another. All I said is that emotion is a factor in the way we carry out our decisions once we make them. I did not say that we should let emotion makes our decisions for us. I don’t walk around with my eyes crying with patriotism all day long. When I said “Emotion trumps mental”, I did not mean that emotion rules or overpowers mental.

    Sam’s entire demeanor sounds incredibly pessimistic to me. (In fact, he sounds suspiciously like an ex-boyfriend of mine.) Just because I tend to see things from a more optimistic bend doesn’t mean I am ignorant of the facts. It is called BALANCE. I did not say that everyone in Washington has our best interests in heart. We all know there is more than enough corruption to go around and growing every day. But no matter how much corruption, I would still rather be in the USA than in any other country. That is where patriotism comes in.

    I am not going to give my opinions to any of the questions posed because that would invite further discussion into areas that I did not intend to discuss in the first place. This has started to feel like more like an argument than a respectful conversation. I have better things to do with my life than argue with people I don’t even know in the first place.

    Colin, you sound like an intelligent, caring, smart, inquisitive young man and I applaud you for looking for answers based on research, not emotion. Even if our country were to fall like Rome, you can still be patriotic, feel patriotic to the ideals on which it was founded without being a hypocrite. If you have a plan and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t believe in the plan. It just means there might be room for adjustment.

    Patriotism isn’t about following our politicians blindly. It is about having the guts to stick around to work on the problems in spite of them.

    I wish you the best in all you do. You seem to be on a very good track in life.



  7. On that note, what about the pledge of allegiance? When I say it am I pledging to the ever-degrading American society? Or am I pledging to the ideals that America was founded upon?

    Or are you pledging to a corrupt country instead of pledging to God?

  8. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under G-d, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    The Pledge of Allegiance is about pledging loyalty to the United States based upon the ideals on which it was founded.

    In 1954 the words "under G-d" was added, not as a religious statement of pledging to G-d, but as a means of asking G-d (as you understand him/her) to watch over us as we continue to be a republic.

  9. It pledges allegiance, not loyalty. So it's actually a pledge to the country and not to God in my opinion. And I don't even support what our government/country is doing at the moment anyway so I wouldn't want to pledge to this country. I do, however, support my country to the max. I just feel saying the pledge is giving it to your country, not your God. Anyway, it's confusing to talk about through messages and it's way to long to just send in a single e-mail, but those are some of my thoughts.