I’ve been reading quite a bit about patriotism lately. Those who claim to be the most fervent patriots tend to be socially and fiscally conservative. Not all, but certainly most hyper-patriots tend to identify with the right. They revere the military, conservative principals and Ronald Reagan, not necessarily in that order.
Now, I like living here as much as the next guy, and I even get a little choked up when I see the breadth of military power we can bring to bear at a moment’s notice. (watch the rescue scene in Captain Phillips).
Now, the fact that I think the USA is a neat place to live doesn’t inform my other social and political opinions. I am a balls-out lib and will explain it nice and slowly to anyone who wants to know, but that is separate and distinct from anything resembling patriotism which may reside within my psyche.
I once considered joining the Civil Air Patrol and went to a couple of meetings in order to help me decide. In one meeting, the man in charge of the local group was teaching a lesson in military ethics. He spoke of the dilemma of a soldier being given an illegal order by his commander. The question posed to the group was whether the soldier should obey the order, thereby potentially breaking the law, or report his commander to superiors higher up the chain of command, knowing full well that doing so would likely destroy any chance of him ever being promoted, since he would thereafter be tagged as a “rat”.
Most in the group said that they would obey the order, for various reasons, most of which included not wanting to ruin their military careers. I must admit that I was perplexed, at first saying to myself that I would turn him in, but later agreeing with most of the others that I would probably just do what he said for the sake of self-preservation. I thought that the leader of the group would agree, offering some sage bit of military advice like “leave no one on the battlefield” or some other such brothers-in-arms sort of platitude so common in military settings. But the old soldier surprised me by saying that we should turn him in.
When I expressed my shock at this answer he responded to me with what I could only describe as one of the most logical, ethical things ever said to me by anyone. He said, “My friend, those who join the military are expected to be willing to give their life for their country. If that’s really true, then giving up your career is a walk in the park, wouldn’t you say?”
I’m reminded of the brilliance and honesty of that remark whenever I hear so-called patriots who scream about small government, taxes and their hatred of so-called entitlement plans, the Affordable Care Act and imaginary welfare queens. I wish I could say to them that if it is righteous to give one’s life for his country, giving up some money should be a walk in the park.
It seems to me that true patriots should be willing to give up a couple of bucks to help those for whom they claim to be willing to give their lives.
I don’t know how you can claim to love your country but hate those who live in it.