Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Patriotism

Did you watch the Superbowl on Sunday? Most of you probably did, even if you're not big football fans. I wasn't a big fan of either team, but William pretty much watches all and any football he can, so we ordered pizza and sodas and made a day of it. We were both rooting for the Colts, which worked out well. I got several large skeins of yarn wound into balls during the game. And of course we had a good time watching all the advertisers try to outdo each other with the best and wildest commercials.

But I bring it up specifically to ask if you caught the beginning of the game, when they had the color guard march onto the field and asked for a moment of silence for those that lost their lives in the recent Florida tornadoes, and a minute later when they also made an announcement honoring all the men and women who are serving our country and who were watching the game from overseas.

When the camera cut to the color guard and stayed on it, before the announcer had said a word, I found myself with a lump in my throat and my eyes got all misty. I am, and this might surprise some of you, a very patriotic person. And in that moment, I realized something - I realized that I'm really tired of not being able to be proud of my country.

I'm tired of being angry. I'm tired of being embarrassed. I'm tired of being accused of NOT being patriotic because of my belief that this country has lost sight of the bigger picture.

Of course when I say I'm not proud of my country, what I really mean is I'm not proud of the current leaders of this country. I completely get that the current administration is not the same thing as our country itself. It's not it's geography, it's not it's people, it's not it's spiritual heart or it's compassion or it's generosity or it's science or it's humor or it's children. It's not even all of our politicians. Am I still proud of all those other things that make up the sum of our country? You betcha. Throat catching, eye misting, chest puffing proud.

But it's the folks at the helm right now, steering our path, that represent America to the rest of the world and I am sick and tired of having to feel apologetic about that. To explain that WE are not THEM.

When William and I arrived in France, the first thing we did was buy ourselves metro passes and try to use them. We couldn't find the metro line we needed. After wandering in circles for a few minutes, we asked a passing elderly couple, a very tiny man and his wife, if they, perhaps, spoke English. No, they did not. But pointing at at our unfurled subway maps, with body language they suggested they might be able to help us find where we wanted to go.

It ended up they thought we we couldn't find a destination. We couldn't really explain that we couldn't even find the beginning of our route. After a few frustrating minutes, William noticed a small arrowed sign far at the end of the train station and pointing it out we mimed "hurrah!" while pointing at the map and pointing at the sign. Problem solved.

The tiny couple nodded happily and then, before taking their leave asked "Canada?"

"No. We're Americans" we replied.

They nodded their heads, held up a finger for us to wait, conferred with each other for a quarter of a minute or so and then having obviously worked hard to put it all together turned back to us, and said with a firm passion -

"We..." they pointed at themselves "Love...." they paused to nod at each other, tap their hearts, they'd gotten the right word "Americans!" And then they smiled and patted our hands with theirs.

William and I both laughed and I said "Well, we love the French too!" And we waved goodbye and went our separate ways. And although we all laughed, it left me feeling sad too. What compelled them to such a display? I knew what sort of biased news Americans were being fed by our media. It made me wonder - What sort of similar propoganda, or perhaps, even more frightening to think, true stories, were they hearing about America or Americans in their news coverage?Where they being served up stereotypes and media created overreactions about us they way we were about them? Are that many people really that easily led by the nose? Please, that was a rhetorical question. I don't want an answer. It's too damn depressing. Like the man I overheard yelling at his wife in the bread aisle of our local supermarket "Put that back! I'm not buying any of that fucking FRENCH bread - those commies!" I don't really want to know that as a culture we are that stupid. But, based on the same sort of packaged and safety sealed political blitz, was this sweet French couple trying to reassure us that THEY were not THEM?

I know that it's not simple. It's never been simple. Every country has things to be proud of, things to hold their head in shame over. No one is completely the good guy or the bad guy, no country is perfect. But it's such a deep, wide chasm between the pride I felt for my country just a few short years ago, and the tangled ball of frustration I feel about my country today. I'm tired of living with the seemingly diametrical desires to speak out against what I believe is wrong and my longing to feel unquestionably patriotic once again.

I want my country back.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Barbara Hynes said...

I totally agree with you. I'm reminded of when I was up in Canada during Watergate and this guy in a bar starting berating me about Nixon. I told him that I hated Nixon, and not to judge me just because I'm an American. Didn't the U.S. used to be some kind of shining beacon on the hill? Or was that some kind of propaganda we were spoonfed? I want to live in a country that I can be proud of. I know that we are good folks, and I know we can do better. Where can we get some decent leaders who have spines and guts? THAT'S the big question. Sigh.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Laura Florand said...

I identify with the Franco-American encounters so much! Thanks for your email before, Laume. I hope you got my response, too--I have this obsessive worry that spam filters will catch my replies and people kind enough to write me about my book will think I'm rudely ignoring them!

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Kirsty Moonsinger said...

'Kay, Laume, fess up...have you been verbalizing my deepest thoughts all my life or just in the last year or two?? You said so beautifully and poignantly what I've been feeling in my heart. I grew up an Air Force Brat, so I am a Patriot to the core. Do I support the war...hell no! Do I support my country...hell yes! And I just was so glad to read that there are others out there like me, proud of being American, singing those old songs we learned in school...My Country Tis of Thee and the Star Spangled Banner, and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies etc etc etc....but I am angered by what is happening in our leadership...or is that...NON leadership? Two more years and we prune that darned Bush and set roots to a new turning time...and we needs must applaud the right of the shrub to speak whatever is on his feeble mind, as I have and you have the right to speak ours. Or Blog ours. Whatever! Anyway, thanks again for a wonderful wonderful post!
Kirsty

7:49 PM  
Blogger Lavinia-TN said...

Just to shed some light, you mentioned "we asked a passing elderly couple"..if they were elderly then perhaps they remember World War II. Younger people don't feel the same about Americans. My husband was in the Navy for many years. When they first went to France they were welcomed. The last time he went they were not. American media itself has run our country down the drain. So permit me to disagree with you, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Lavinia-TN

1:17 AM  

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