Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This is America

Let me preface this by saying that I am emphatically a patriot. The thing is, there's a slight difference of opinion about that. Many of the people who are out there describing themselves as patriots wouldn't consider me to be one. I think dissent can be patriotic. I don't think waving a flag around is enough. And I really, really don't think either of the wars we are involved in has anything whatever to do with patriotism. I think they are monstrous disasters.

So that's the background.

Yesterday was an amazing day. I got called to serve on a jury. As with many people, when the time came for me to put my patriotic beliefs into actual, inconvenient action, I had to heave a sigh and make myself act appropriately. But I got through it and drove to Sycamore to our beautiful old courthouse (last seen by our heroine on the day of her divorce).

I hadn't realized that on that very same morning, a Sycamore-based unit of the National Guard was scheduled to return from Afghanistan. There was to be a parade in their honor at the exact time court was supposed to start. Instead, the courthouse was (temporarily) closed, and the streets were lined with flags and people. The Boy Scouts were out. The high school band was there. People I know -at least one whose son was in the unit- and people I didn't. One little girl on a teensy pink bicycle was riding next to the soldiers, yelling "Look Daddy, I can ride my bike!!" There were babies and strollers and old people in wheel chairs. Judges and jurors and police officers lined the streets.

And there was not a a dry eye to be seen. Seriously, it was a picture right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Or a country music song. Honestly, if it were in a movie, you would have thought it was too sweet to be believable. But there it was.

I hate these wars. But it's also true that I have a brother who is in the Air Force. He's safely state-side at the moment, but I want it to be true that there are parades in his honor and people saying thank you, and (rather dreadful) bands doing their best to celebrate his heroism. I want the town to temporarily stop to say "oh my goodness, we are so glad you're back," and to take a moment of silence for the ones who can't come back. He deserves it; he really does.

And so... I'll stand with the other patriots. For a minute, we'll make room for each other, and celebrate other patriots who express their beliefs differently. They'll go home and, God willing, watch their children ride pink bicycles for a while. I went to the courthouse and did a different kind of duty.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Interesting. I was just having a discussion about what patriotism means last week with a co-worker. It came up because someone mentioned the Pledge of Allegiance and we both flew into a rant against it. Is it healthy to be proud of your country unthinkingly? I think not. I know I bang this particular drum a lot, but I think Mill was DEAD ON when he argued that beliefs that we don't actively challenge become "dead dogma" and lose their meaning and value.

And, interestingly enough, yesterday's update to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy? Patriotism.