I was recently at my day job and a coworker jokingly told me, “write about love.” I scoffed, of course. Love? If you are a regular reader then you know that love is the furthest thing from my mind when I sit down to dole out my particular vintage of venom and vinegar (I suggest the 2010 which is particularly biting). Naturally I responded, “Love? I don’t write about love.” But I think it is time that I did, in fact, write about love. Don’t worry, I have not gone soft. It’s not ‘that’ kind of love. I want to write about my brand of patriotism. Patriotism, at its very core, is a deep and abiding love for one’s country and citizenship. I thank that coworker for highlighting the idea of love to me, in that it works very well with illustrating the points on patriotism I am about to cover. Though this may strike some of you in a dissonant fashion, I want you to be open to the ideas set forth here.
In March I wrote an article covering the congressional meetings about Islam in America. In this article I wrote the following:
“I can empathize with the struggle of those wanting nothing more than to be left alone. That is the most basic issue that terrorists have with America…In a matter of moments we would turn in to radicalized Christians killing in the name of God and Country to interrupt, and one day end, the dictatorial leadership to recapture our once great nation; soccer moms would be car bombing foreign military installations and detonating IED’s on Main Street with their Blackberry’s inside of a week.”
Out of a natural fear of ending up on a no-fly list getting a body scan and a tender cavity search from a now very close friend, Derek; not to mention a visit home looming on the horizon; I want to clarify my stance on my patriotism and the ideas behind what makes me a red, white, and blue blooded American.
Patriotism comes in many forms. The most ostentatious brand of patriotism is the one we see. Why? It is the easiest to identify and the most interesting to cover in the news. There is no subtlety in patroiotism in America. We love this country at a level 11 when everyone else’s knobs just go to 10. Isn’t it OK for me not to shove my love for this country down everyone’s throat? Do I have to advertise my patriotism to avoid being called a terrorist, or Islamic sympathizer? You know, someone else made people wear stars and stripes…the Nazis (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Who doesn’t want to see a secretary dressed in period authentic Minute Men garb at a Tea Party protest on Tax Day? It just makes for good TV, the spectacle of it all. There is no dignified patriotism in America. Overseas they relegate their violent fandom to Soccer, the same level of booze fueled madness we don’t even blink at expressing over fourth of July weekend. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. Let’s first start with love. There are but three kinds of patriotism, as there are but three types of love: blind lust, symbiotic, and unconditional.
Blind lust is the warmest and fuzziest of them all. This kind of love smooths over every imperfection. This is the lust you feel at the beginning of a relationship. No matter what the quirk or problem may be, you find it cute, think the other person is just perfect, and can find no reason why you shouldn’t elope right then and there. This kind of patriotism is what you see when the American flag is squeegeed onto the back window of a Ford or read the “love it or leave it” sticker slapped proudly on the bumper of the same truck. This love is swirling in rainbow clouds around the heads of every person dawning the American flag dress shirt. This country is number one and they love this country so much that it quite literally hurts. With absolutely no quantifiable criteria, or any data to back up their claim, these blissfully ignorant America-lovers think this country is the greatest in the world and is God’s country. Never mind that our economy is in the toilet, our education system is a joke, and our foreign policy is a gracefully fumbling Charlie Chaplin at best. This is the best country and anyone who disagrees or argues is an enemy combatant or should just move to Canada.
Symbiotic love is the kind of love that comes from 50 years together. After a lifetime together, it’s the kind of bond your grandparents may have. It is not a burning passion anymore, but an identity created by literally bonding two people into one. There is no “I” and there is no “you,” simply “us.” This bond is much like the arch in architecture. It is a self-sustaining creation with no weak point that can sustain great loads that any other geometric structure would buckle under. One side of the arch is absolutely useless and will crumble without the other. This kind of patriotism is sustained in much the same way a loving and long-standing marriage would be held together. There is great trials and tribulations over many decades, but the ability to see it through and never quit one another is the bond that this kind of love creates. This is a patriotism you find in men who fought in WWII. There is a veneration and respect for this country that the young just sit in awe and admire. You throw away the bad, knowing that without this country you would be nothing, and that is what comforts you when you’re both shitting your pants and can’t remember each other’s name.
Then there is the unconditional. This is a stressful and nerve wracking love that can tug at the heart strings or drive you to the brink of insanity. This is the love a parent feels for their child. This is the underlying love that will exist no matter how badly, and how egregiously the child fucks up. You see it time and time again with parents crying and saying they love their son, that he is a “good boy,” even when he is on trial for a double murder. This is the love that is a hard candy shell around every other emotion; the M&M of emotional conditions. As a parent you may never agree with a child’s choices, lifestyle, or decision to pursue art school knowing full well they won’t be employable with a degree in post-modern fresco, but you support them anyway. You give your opinion, advice, lessons learned from your own mistakes, but your kid doesn’t listen, he thinks he knows best. Though you don’t like what he may do, he is your son, and you love him with every fiber in your being, hoping that the best will befall him despite his seeming attempts to see otherwise.
I fall in to the last category. I see far too many people fall in to the other two and it breaks my heart as a loving parent. Blind lust after this country does nothing to help this country grow. How can a person give advice when their judgment is clouded by their feelings? You can’t honestly think it is a healthy relationship if you can’t see the forrest through the trees? Your partner is silently crying out for help, advice, leadership, and all you can think is, “boy what a cute nose you have. Oh, your whole head is adorable. I LOVE YOU!” There is nothing constructive in symbiosis, either. In this new condition of existence there is no desire or will to change the other person. You have accepted them for who they are, and more importantly, who they are to you. Your relationship is bases on a mutual understanding of, “Hey, we’re not gonna find anyone better now, and we’ve been together so long, how would we even go about finding someone that fits us? Let’s just die knowing that at least we had someone through all these years and all these fights that could stand to go to bed mad with us.”
Is this any way to love? Well, I hope so, but not any one as a singular state of being. Each one must pass on to the next and even exist in tandem. I would hope that we all have blind lust at some point, but it must eventually turn in to an unconditional love one day. A love where you hope the best and may not always agree, but will always support. I hope that one day I move on to the symbiotic love. After all my years bickering, fighting, loving, and through the difficulties of being open enough to be hurt by your country, that one symbiotic day I can realize the beauty of accepting my country for who it is and for who it has made me after all these decades together.
I think far too often people mistake a healthy criticism of this country as a distaste for it. I will be the first to die for this country if my life can go to the greater good of it’s future. In my above statement I talk of empathizing with the terrorist plight. I also talk of soccer moms blowing up buildings with Blackberrys. I do get what they are fighting for in their own backwards way. I hate the actions we are taking that are prolonging this idealogical friction. In essence, I am watching my son continue in self-destructive behavior. I would die for my son though, and kill for him, too. Anyone ever wanted to hurt my son, no matter what a fuck up he is, they would have to go through me first, no matter how crazy that may sound.
I love this country, like a parent to a child. I am almost always at odds with the decisions this country makes, and am appalled at the hypocrisy and policy that our leaders put forth, both past and present. But I am still a proud parent. I don’t stop loving this country just because it makes some bad decisions. I don’t shun my progeny at the drop of a hat. This country is it’s own living, breathing entity, and it can do whatever it wants. At 18 this country declared it’s independence, moved out of the basement, and shacked up with a girl it has yet to bring home to meet the parents. Her name was Lady Liberty (who names their kid “Lady”?).
I for one, love my rights. This country has given me a set of abilities as a citizen to express myself in ways foreigners see as something of which they can only dream. I use my rights almost to the extent of abusing them; anyone who reads my work can attest to that. It’s because I love this country that I criticize and give my humble advice. This is indeed a country that is growing much as a teenager, and it is our responsibility to give our two cents, even if it hurts a little. It is out of a deep and unwavering love that I strongly disagree with it’s actions, because I want the best for my child. I do all of this for you, America. It’s because I love you, FOR all your faults and not just in spite of them, that I give my words of wisdom. It’s because I know you can be great, your potential is limitless, that I won’t give up on you. It’s because I love you more than life itself that I would lay my life on the line for you, if only to help you realize your pinnacle. No one can question my loyalty and my patriotism, I just refuse to let it blindly begin and end at a bumper sticker.