My Country Tis of Thee

Talking of patriotism, what humbug it is; it is a word which always commemorates a robbery. There isn’t a foot of land in the world which doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successive owners.
     – Mark Twain

Who’s your favorite patriot?

It’s great to love your country (I do), but Patriotism, man, what a loaded word. Remember the flap about whether or not then-candidate Barack Obama lacked patriotic spirit because he didn’t have a flag pin on his lapel?  Forevermore, we Americans will see flag pins on Presidents’ and Presidential candidates’ lapels!

Romney’s flag pin is bigger! What does that mean?

Rah rah!   Remember when true patriots only bought cars made in America?  Kind of a shock when it came out that many parts under the hoods of our beloved American cars came from China.  Remember Freedom Fries, when those naughty French refused to support the Iraq War in 2003?  Representative Walter Ney led the charge to rename French Fries and French Toast, Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast, on the menus in the Congressional cafeterias.  In 2006, the names were quietly changed back, and Walter Ney pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.  Some patriot.

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images

So, here’s my nomination for True Patriot.  Son of a German immigrant brew-meister who was ridiculed by his peers during World War I because of his heritage. To prove his love of country, he joined the Boy Scouts and became a top salesman of Liberty Bonds.  When former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt came to town to award medals to the top ten bond sellers — oops — there were only nine medals, and none for the son of the German immigrant, who was hustled off the stage.  He suffered from a fear of public speaking for the rest of his life.

His father was a member of the Park Board in his hometown of Springfield MA, and while tagging along at the local zoo, he started a lifelong love of doodling animals, usually in an exaggerated fashion.  He went on to squeak through Dartmouth and drop out of Oxford, to write ads for a pesticide company, all the while hoping to make a living drawing zany creatures.  In 1937 while on a ship to Europe, he made up a limerick to go with the sound of the engines, that eventually became his first children’s book, To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. It was rejected 27 times by publishers who said they only wanted stories with morals, but finally picked up by a publisher, and the rest is history.  He continued to write imaginatively and heroically, for the rest of his life.  Oh The Places You’ll Go is one of the top gifts to graduates, and his protest against pollution, The Lorax, both raises hackles and inspires budding environmentalists to this day.  We miss you Dr. Suess.

Patriotism isn’t wearing a symbol or singing a song at a baseball game.  It’s working to give back to your country as much as it has given you, and in the end, helping the country give back to the world as much as it’s given us.

Who would you nominate for the honorable title of Patriot?

Written for the great GBE 2: Blog OnWEEK #76 (10-28-12 to 11-3-12): Patriotism.  Join us!  

10 comments

    • I like how you think. Patriotism as a gateway to recognizing that we are one species in one world, better off working together.

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  • Again, I am surprised how patriotism has become sort of a dirty word. Like maybe everyone would rather be anything other than that!
    I am a proud patriot and I don’t think it has anything to do with where I live so much as how I live. I am part of a community of people who are part of a larger community etc, etc…right out to the community of the world. I am patriotic because this country is my home and it matters to me that men and women have sacrificed and died to maintain our freedom and allow me to say what I want when I want and never have to worry that I have offended anyone in power. I also speak English because back in WWII days, a lot of men and women went to Europe to fight a war they knew nothing about, except that if they didn’t go, we might not have this free country to call home. I could be speaking German and I could be unfamiliar with Jewish people except by whatever history books we might have been permitted to own.

    Just saying that I think we have established and built a wonderful country of free thinking people and we can do better. We will do better, given time.

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  • Hurray! You’re right. Patriotism is not a dirty word, but it is easily misused. I’m glad you put freedom of speech front and center. It’s one of the first privileges to go in repressive societies. Here’s to treasuring what we have, giving back what we can, and thanking the people who sacrificed to help make this country what it is. And here’s to hoping we do better, in time.

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  • I adore this post! Yours was one of my favorites and I just love Theodore Geisel, for his imagination and for his courage as well. (There’s more than one political message loaded into his books.) I continue to be amazed and thrilled with the quality of thought on the posts on this topic. Each one gives me something new to relate to, even when expressed differently than I would have thought to do.

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    • Me three. I’m reading posts on this GBE2 topic. They are incredibly, well, patriotic. It’s hard to look straight on at your feelings about your fellow citizens and government, and then harder still to put those feelings out in the world. Glad to be part of this. Thanks for the visit!

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  • I LOVE this post! Your definition of patriotism is the best I’ve heard, and one I can absolutely get behind. And Dr. Seuss? One of my all-time favorites. The man promoted kindness and decency in the purest of ways.

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    • Thank you, and back at you. Anyone with a self-imposed handle of Word Nerd already has a leg up in my book. I agree about Dr. Suess promoting kindness and decency. Pretty funny that his first book almost didn’t make print because it didn’t promote morals. Want to take any guesses about what constituted morals in the 1940’s and ’50’s?

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