When settlers first arrived in America, being patriotic meant remaining loyal to the British Empire. That changed pretty quickly, as Americans saw how much that loyalty was costing them. New patriots came forth to fight the old empire, and the country won its freedom due to their efforts. The next batch of patriots were called on to build the country up right, by any means necessary. Some of those means weren’t really necessary, so the next generation of patriots fought for civil rights.
In case you haven’t been counting…
It took four different kinds of patriots to get us to this point, and we haven’t even gotten to any of the big wars.
We talked about how war is more popular than ever, and how America had to change its stripes to participate in the first two world wars already. The subject of war has always been a dividing line for some types of patriots, and understanding history helps us see why. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got the person who thinks governments should solve problems without violence, or fight their own battles instead of sending the next generation before their brains have fully formed. On the other end is the person who thinks that the best defense is a good offense, and no one is likely to mess with a country with a reputation for crushing its enemies.
Both arguments have merit, if you can open your mind to see it. They also both have flaws, which is sometimes a more difficult thing to see. If you enjoy trying to calmly find solutions to complicated problems, I’m right there with you. If you don’t…
What the hell are you doing reading a blog called ‘Thoughts That Hurt To Think?’
Very few people really love war. Most of us see it as a necessity, but rarely do we all agree on when it is and isn’t actually necessary. Oddly enough, people all along this widely varying spectrum of opinions see themselves as patriots. Very few of us want our country to fail, or perish; most of us want America to be the best country it can be. We just have different ideas of what that looks like, and we’re not in charge. These realities intertwine to cause frustration in a lot of people. We end up with yet another spectrum, with equally polarized views.
Some folks don’t want to talk politics at all; others won’t shut the hell up about it. Not many people understand the complexities of the issues they are talking about when they do steer the conversation in that direction, and very few of those exchanges do anything other than enforce what both people already believe. Even fewer have any actual productive result in the real world.
But if you ask both of these people, in the middle of their heated argument or enthusiastic agreement, if they are patriots…it’s pretty likely they will both say yes. One of them might think America was founded on a great idea, and we should focus our resources at home and let other folks alone. The other might think that letting the world behave as it will is a recipe for disaster, and that disaster will eventually reach our country one way or another.
Again, both of these people are right. They’re also both patriots. Yet they have completely different ideas about how the country should be run. Other people have ideas that fall elsewhere along the spectrum, and they’re patriots as well. The only way you can not be a patriot is if you wish ill upon your country. Even overthrowing the government is patriotic, once the new regime is in place. Hell, that’s how this whole thing got started in the first place.
In fact, that’s the best way to create patriots. That first generation of Americans were proud of the country they had formed, in a way that no generation since can begin to understand. They had the experience of being so fed up with their government that they wanted to leave it behind and then the opposite experience of being faced with a fresh new start, all in one lifetime. The only thing their kids needed to do was be born here, and they got to be part of the newly formed United States. As super exciting as that may have been for that next generation, they didn’t know how hard their parents had fought to hand it down to them.
This may have been when the whole ‘I’m more patriotic than you’ argument first got started. It’s certainly understandable, since one generation had to fight for the land and the next only had to work it. Since then, every successive generation in America has owed a little more to the previous generations while no longer dealing in the currency of any of those previous generations.
Let’s get metaphorical, and make an example.
Imagine that the country is one family, with a single property. In this family, each generation is expected to build the family estate up to something bigger or better than the last generation did. The current generation comes along, and it turns out there are more of them than in any previous generation. They are faced with the choice of building on top of what others built before them or starting over; yet they have different building materials, different laws to follow, more taxes to pay, and more people to house. A big sprawling estate with one or two main structures doesn’t suit this generation. The foundation they stand on is old and cracked, the walls aren’t properly insulated, and the roof leaks in a couple spots when it rains.
The thing is, this structure was not built by a single generation. It came together over time, to the point where the people who laid the foundation were long since in the ground by the time those metaphorical walls were being built. Tearing down the old would take a lifetime, and would only result in the next generation having a bigger job on their hands than any of the ones that came before them. It may have been a couple that started this family, but now hundreds of their descendants are trying to live in the home they built for themselves. Each of those descendants have as much right to say how the estate should be handled, and each of them may have completely different ideas about how to do the handling.
Tearing down the old structure makes total sense to one of them, while preserving it as is appeals to another. Maybe a bunch of them want to keep part of the original structure, but each of them wants to preserve a different part of it. At some point someone needs to take charge and start getting things done, if anything is to get done; but who do we put in charge, and what can we agree needs to be done?
Is any one of these family members disloyal to the cause? No, not really. They just all have different ideas about how to serve it. Some of them may have terrible ideas, but they won’t know they are terrible until they are given a chance to play out. Meanwhile another generation is coming up behind the old one, with new ideas to supplant the old, and only the most short-sighted plans have a chance to come to fruition. The long-term ones get derailed by those new ideas, and end up being little more than a big waste of time and money in retrospect. We stand here in modern times and look back, and can’t help but wonder…
What the hell were they thinking?
Well, they were thinking that we would proceed with the plan they came up with. They thought the foundation was the hardest part, and they expected the rest of the structure to follow the blueprint they laid out for us. The last thing they expected was a structure with a hundred different building styles to spring up on their foundation. They were patriots of a completely different kind, but they didn’t have the foresight to see that their style of patriotism would be laid to rest along with the foundation they built.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, you should understand that everyone else on that spectrum has a right to opinions that are just as rigid or flexible as yours. You should also accept that they are all just as patriotic as you are. If there’s one thing America stands for, it’s every individual’s right to accept things as they are or question them. Expecting everyone to think like you do is the only downright unpatriotic thing you can really do in this country.
I promised this would be the last political post for awhile, and I plan to make good on that promise. Next week we’re going to look at common health concerns, and how they have changed over time. Just like tobacco was once an accepted indulgence that nobody really thought was bad for you, a new nemesis has shown up to change the face of the average American. Well, maybe not their face…but definitely their body type. We’ll talk about that next week, in a post called…
‘Eating is the new smoking!’
I hope to see you then!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,