December 6, 2019

A Case for Patriotism

Guest Column
By Mary Keyes Rogers | July 27, 2019

Well, that was unexpected.
 
On the Fourth of July, my husband’s USA cap and my American flag shirt evoked dirty looks and obscene words about our current president as we walked in downtown Traverse City.
 
“Are they talking to us?” Honestly, it took us a moment to figure out why these people were reacting so terribly to us.
 
The obscene comments came from teenagers who had taken the mental leap, misidentifying patriotic citizens as Trump supporters. You would have thought we were wearing MAGA hats and carrying Vote for Trump signs.
 
Let me be clear: We were not. Let me be even more clear: We would not.
 
Ironically, there was a time in this country when my shirt, which is sewn from an actual American flag, would have been construed as disrespecting the Stars and Stripes. This was not the issue, not in the era of “Make America Great Again.”
 
When Trump adopted “Make America Great Again“as his campaign slogan, a shift occurred in acceptable dialogue regarding patriotism. Love of country became lost in the discourse.
 
I hate to think that young people, or any Americans for that matter, confuse Trumpism with patriotism. Our flag is not a logo for a politician. Our flag represents a rich, though flawed, history of a people continuously working to create a more perfect union. This work in progress will never be a finished product.
 
To say anything positive about America has apparently become a divisive statement, with the implication of support for a white nationalist America. Tiffany Cross of MSNBC’s The Beat D.C.said this last week: “I think that this is something that his supporters — and we have to start calling his supporters racists as well — that MAGA hat, that MAGA symbol, has come to represent something. It is the new Nazi symbol — it is the new hood, the Klan hood”.
 
We were celebrating Independence Day, the birthday of the country we love. Our country.
 
Later that same evening, as the fireworks boomed over the bay, I felt the same familiar surge of pride in my country as I did prior to the current administration. I will always stand for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart.
 
I love my country even when it is in turmoil, when it is suffering, and when it is divided. As a nation, we have much to be ashamed of in our long history. But we move forward.
 
I can love my country and deeply oppose the current president, his policies, and his shameless behavior. For me, this is a dark chapter in America’s history. But it is only one brief chapter.
 
Mark Twain said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and supporting your government when it deserves it.”
 
In America, I can openly oppose the policies and behavior of the elected president. Our rights and freedoms continue to be what this country stands for, even if we strongly disagree with the current resident of the Oval Office.
 
Yes, I am embarrassed by and feel ashamed of our current president. More troubling to me personally is my utter confusion over the number of my fellow American citizens who excuse his behavior.
 
Yet I find solace in remembering that we are 243 years strong as a nation, having survived a civil war and ongoing challenges. We have always been a work in progress.
 
There has never been a moment in our history when everything was perfect. America is not perfect. Our own families are not perfectly harmonious, but we each love our idealized future country, and I am proud to be part of the experiment.
 
Our government is holding together pretty well through these rough waters. If Trump serves one or two terms, I do believe that, although there will be temporary damage to our country’s spirit, I wholeheartedly believe that our nation can heal. We must continue to believe in the foundation of our country even when the current state of government is testing our limits.
 
Just as a loyal baseball fan screams at the decisions of the team’s general manager or coach, we don’t bail on our team. One person does not make a nation.
 
Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl, reminds us, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
 
My attitude remains that America is my country, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. I am not a fair-weather fan.
 
Mary Rogers is a Traverse City based freelance writer and host of The Experience 50 Podcast for Midlife. mary@experience50.com

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