For years, my personal beef with al-Qaeda was that after 9/11 I had to put up with all this uber-patriotism being shoved down my throat. Every time I went to the ballpark to watch a baseball game and had to sing God Bless America instead of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch, I wanted to kill those bastards. I cussed them every time I saw a gas-guzzling SUV with a “Support our Troops” bumper sticker on the back or whenever I had to endure politicians wearing American flag lapel pins on TV. I purposely resisted all the empty patriotic blustering. I refused to salute the flag and insulted the office of the presidency every chance I got.
It was important for me to separate myself from the xenophobic lemmings about me. I have never considered myself a patriot and am not insulted when people accuse me of being un-patriotic. I hope I am. According to the dictionary, a patriot is a person who undertakes efforts to further or strengthen the power of a centralized government. I have enough of a libertarian streak that I have no wish to participate in any of that nonsense. I believe in using the government as a tool to achieve certain aims, but I always distrust it the way I do poisonous chemicals. They can be effective, but indiscriminate use can be fatal. Too much patriotism leads to fascism. Me and authoritarianism get along like dingoes and babies — which wouldn’t be so bad, except the government always gets to be the dingo. I rant and rave when I have to give my fingerprint to get a driver’s license, but in the end I submit because Big Brother calls the shots. At the airport, I am as hostile as I can be without qualifying as “uncooperative.” You can, by the way, tell the screener what you think of what they do — as long as you let them scan you. Anyway, I don’t believe in giving the government one inch more of authority than it needs.
Last weekend, though, I was visiting the evangelical horde and I made a sarcastic reference to the secession movement. My operating assumption is that all rational people (i.e. non-extremist radicals) concede the ridiculousness and foolishness of the secessionist twaddle. This is a given. My friend, however, threw me a curve ball. Secession is the way, he said, if our country continues on its march toward socialism. I couldn’t even talk. I was beyond angry. He was smug in his sedition. I told him if we didn’t change the subject, I would leave.
On my way home later, I wondered about how angry I get at the secessionists. What they’re talking about is treason! They’re threatening to tear our country apart! It infuriates me. And then it dawned on me: Deep down inside, I love my country. It has nothing to do with stupid flag pledges or blind allegiance to the government. When push comes to shove, ideologically speaking, I am committed to our country and the Constitution. As much as I make fun of it and disrespect it, I also hold it dear and the serious proposition of undoing it, is untenable to me.
I am, in fact, a patriot. Who knew?