I love my country. That said, I was not raised in a patriotic family. We didn’t have a history of men and women who had served in war, mostly because they weren’t the right age at the right time, but some (like my father) who just didn’t see the point. He was very negative about America, and I learned some of that negativity as I watched Pres. Nixon resign, trying to sincerely convince us that he wasn’t a crook. That occasion tainted my experience of politics, and still does to this day. And while I have met a number of remarkable politicians over the years (you know who you are), I generally don’t trust them. I am not that unusual in that respect.
I think I remember doing the pledge of allegiance in grade school, but it never meant much to me. I recall standing at a football game as a sophomore in high school; we were asked to stand for the National Anthem, and I did. I didn’t, however, cover my heart with my hand, because, honestly, this was the first event I remember attending that I had to do this. A man nearby gently motioned to me what to do, and I did as he did. His kind nudge moved me towards a better understanding of patriotism. To this day, with the exception of holy seasons, we fly the American flag on our front porch as a sign of our commitment to our country. To me, it matters.
I love my country, but I don’t think we are always right. It was a quote I heard my father say often when I was a child; “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!” He was frustrated that it was so misused. This was first said by Stephan Decatur, a famous soldier from the early 19th century, and has been changed over the years to challenge the blind patriotism of the original quote. Decatur may have been influenced by the 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke, who wrote, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Decades later, in 1871, US Senator Carl Schurz used another variation as a rebuttal to a fellow senator’s jingoistic misuse of the quote by saying, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
My love of country was attacked a year ago, when false patriots attacked our nation’s Capitol Building, spurred on by a terrible lie. I know we all heard commentary yesterday ad nauseum about the event, and we are ready to move on to today’s news, but please bear with me for another 30 seconds. The attack a year ago has been minimized by some and explained away by others, but the violent participants have almost all pleaded guilty to their charges. They say they were misled; they say they didn’t mean it; they have cried and apologized and promised to be good. To be clear, so they understand; they attacked our country. Period. They ransacked our seat of government and made threats against our elected public servants. They are home-grown terrorists.
I love my country and will continue to speak up when we do what is right, and when we do what is wrong. We all should be committed to protecting this country from foreign and domestic threats. We don’t have to serve in the armed forces (again, thank you for your service) to love this country. We merely have to work together towards a better practice of democracy and punish those who try to destroy us. The country should always come before party. Let’s celebrate what is right and make what is wrong better. That is, to me, real patriotism.
Prayer – We know, God of all people, that we are lucky to live in a country that has so much. Help us to make it better for all people. Amen.
Today’s picture is of Major General Carl Schurz, who was eventually elected to the US Senate. He was born in Germany and immigrated to this country, serving under President Lincoln. He was also an early advocate opposing slavery.