Monday, September 29, 2014

From the Sacrilicious Sunday Services blog that nobody read: Patriotism.

Downtown Grounds
16oz Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin Spice Muffin
(screw you, pumpkin spice haters!)

I won a free coffee and it's National Coffee Day!  I has a happy.

Anyway... A few months ago, I tried to start up a new blog with the intent to create a discussion topic for my tiny handful of readers to engage other people in, and then respond with thoughts from their discussions.  People seemed to have missed the memo... and the comment thingy was having issues.  So, I think I shall try it again as a video blog later on.  Maybe after the new year.  I'm going to focus on finishing up book stuff (yeah, I'm still doing the book thing) in the meantime.  Anyway, here is the first topic from that blog from April.  Feel free to discuss with your bus driver or annoyed barista...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Let's start with patriotism.

What is your definition of patriotism, and do you think it is a good thing?

Voltaire is often quoted as saying, "It is lamentable that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind." Or something like that. I tried to tease out a more definitive definition from the online dictionary pages, but I wasn't quite satisfied. The interpretations seemed to be a little more modern, and the origins were a little... abrupt, and unclear. All that's clear is that it comes from the words for father and fatherland. The modern definitions mention love and devotion, and that just seems a little more romantic to me - more benign. I recall thinking that patriotism most implied an expectation of loyalty - loyalty to your fatherland.

And that's why I tend to agree with Voltaire's interpretation.

I don't believe in unquestioning, unwavering loyalty, not to any person or country or land. I don't believe in elevating my country and countrymen to some higher kind of humanity. And I do not think anyone, even someone I trust and care about, should be obeyed without scrutiny. No one is infallible, and even someone I reasonably trust now may prove to be a complete idiot about something else later. This is why I would make a bad soldier. That, and certain physical shortcomings we need not dwell on here.

All that's enough to get labeled a coward or weak, or that I somehow hate the troops. Fuck that. Just because I recognize that every other human being on this planet is a human being, that doesn't mean I don't care about my home and my family. And I include my country and countrymen when I say that. If the proverbial wolf is at the door, I would not cower. I would not hesitate to rise to the defense. For some people that means signing up and taking up arms. I respect that, but I can't do that. I can't put myself at other people's discretion to direct. I don't trust those people on the best of days, and committing to all the acts of war on someone else's say-so... just can't do it.

If I am patriotic at all, then I fulfill my patriotic duty by trying to keep the men and women who swear themselves to defend me from ever having to fulfill that sacrifice. I will always question the need to go to war. War is the definition of failure in my eyes. If you have to go to war then every other means of resolution must have been tried and must have failed.

(Oh, my goodness... "It's the final countdown!")

Anyway. I guess talk of patriotism always turns to war because that seems to be the finest test of loyalty - put your life on it or you don't really mean it. I hate that notion, too. I agree with that bumper-sticker: Peace is Patriotic. Yes, I was born in America so I have to tend to the matters of my family. That means supporting it, trying to make it better. It is my homeland and I love it, but it doesn't get a pass. I believe in the idea of America - the idea of it is truly one of the greatest humanity has come up with. But America isn't the idea it wants to be, or thinks it is. And America isn't the only great idea, either.

I wouldn't be a good patriot if I pounded on my chest shouting, "American Exceptionalism!" That would be a self-deluding lie, and lies are not going to make us a better country. A human being is a human being is a human being, and countries might help in an organizational sense (for things like getting your social security check in the mail) but not much for purposes of compassion and understanding. These arbitrary delineations are just another way of creating a false distance between us.

So, am I a patriot? I don't know. I'm not a nationalist, I know that. I'm not a chest-pounder, or cheerleader. I'm not much for competitive sports, or dominance, anyway. I will never shove my flag in anyone's face. But I care about the place I live and the people that live in it. But I care about everyone else, too.

I guess, if I'm a patriot, I'm a disobedient patriot.

...You know, I thought that was going to be the last line, but then I remembered that whole Bundy Ranch thing...

My "patriotic disobedience" doesn't include aiming automatic weapons at other people when I disagree with them. I believe in the rule of law. I know that laws can be wrong, and administrators of laws can be corrupt and abusive (I'm not saying that's the case here, just saying...). But we have means of recourse built into the system. Armed insurrection is not one of them, not while the system is still basically in tact. If people are not perfect, then no system we come up with can be perfect. So if you tear down one system with violence, whatever system you come up with will still have that fatal flaw running through it. The best we can do is try to make the system we have as balanced and transparent as we can, with viable means of challenging fault when we find it.

Okay... Thoughts?

Mix Sweet Shop
12oz Decaf Soy Latte
Cinnamon/Brown Sugar Macaroon

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