Wooden's World of Baseball

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Forced Patriotism

As American as baseball and apple pie. There is a certain irony to that expression because neither is truly American in origin, as both are modifications from recipes and traditions from Great Britain and points elsewhere. But, like patriotism, it is too often accepted without being questioned. And that's both unpatriotic and ignorant.

I write this after being publicly chastised for not stopping and gazing toward the American flag while the national anthem was being performed as I walking up to the gate at Pfitzner stadium. While nonverbally I did remind this woman that I had removed my hat, I regret not giving her the proper salute for demanding such conformism (sieg heil).

You see, I don't believe that true patriotism is in symbols. (If you haven't seen Flags of our Fathers, I'd recommend it because it does a very good job of showing the underbelly of the propaganda surrounding the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima). I've never been a fan of the pledge of allegiance, particularly when you consider (a) that the words "under God" weren't part of the original text (b) those words were added at the height of McCarthyism (read: fear-mongering for political gain) and (c) it was written for an advertising campaign for the sale of flags to schools.

Instead, true patriotism is, as Adlai Stevenson put it: The quiet dedication of a lifetime. It's civic participation, both direct (voting) and indirect (staying informed of current events). I rarely meet the flag-on-his-car-antenna @sshole that can name all of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, much less describe what they mean. In fact, I'd bet good money that a newly naturalized citizen could outscore that woman on a civics quiz.

Patriotism is certainly not a cheap gesture that borders on idolatry and definitely not the mindless recitation of an old ad slogan. If you think otherwise, you're probably the same person who flips the bird on your way home from church.


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