United states of being
Making sense of our country’s patriotism
I heard it on ESPN radio. I don’t know who said it, but all of a sudden, patriotism clicked for me.
I had wondered about it for some time. We are all human. Countries are arbitrary lines drawn in the sand. The idea of nationalism is a fairly new concept. Countries as we know them have only been around maybe 500 years.
So why are people so caught up in America’s greatness? It’s just a place. It’s a big place, even, with a multitude of needs and ideas. Idaho is a far cry from New York, and yet we are supposed to be taken care of by the same government. We are all supposed to be Americans — one nation, indivisible and the rest.
But it seems so arbitrary.
Then it clicked. The guy on the radio was talking about traveling abroad. He talked about how cool Europe was and how he wondered why America was so great, then he got back to the states.
His comment was that America is great because America is home — it’s familiar. We understand the culture and we understand the rules.
There are times when you realize what America is based on and what it’s about. It’s about freedom and democracy, but it’s also about more than that.
It’s about cruising through the wheat fields of the Palouse in a big old pick-up truck, listening to Toby Keith sing about his old man’s Semper Fi pride tattoo and the flag that flies over his farm.
It’s about the Fourth of July. I love the Fourth of July — barbecues, blowing stuff up, the fairs and the people.
It’s about the freedom to say and do what we want. It’s about the freedom to be an idiot, if we want. It’s even about protecting the right to be an idiot.
It’s about singing the Star Spangled Banner at a football game, thinking about old Francis Scott Key sitting in a prison galley, wondering if America still existed.
“Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light? What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Who’s broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous night, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Think about the imagery of those words and tell me, after everything we’ve been through in the last 236 years — the war, the strife, political divisions and cultural divisions — is our flag still there? Does it yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?
And who makes it the land of the free and home of the brave?
I’ll give you the answer for free. We do. We do it when we, as individuals, treat people right. We can’t change other people. We can’t change a lot of things, but we absolutely can change ourselves.
When you look at the core, we aren’t so different. When you look at your neighbor, try to figure out what makes you the same, rather than what makes you different. You can be at polar opposites of the political and religious spectrums, polar opposites in race, gender and any other qualifier you choose to look at, but that doesn’t matter. Find unity in what makes you the same. Then America will be what it should be — a safe and happy home for all of its citizens.
Kasen Christensen can be reached at email@example.com