July 3, 2011

Our New Patriotism?

I'm a Vietnam-era vet. Independence Day, July 4, means a lot to me. So does the Flag and the National Anthem.

When I was in the Navy in the late '60s-early '70s, I wasn't that way. In fact, I and other of my fellow sailors often went to extremes to keep our situation hidden.

I knew one guy who almost never had his hair trimmed except on his neck. He'd comb it straight back and plaster it on the top and sides with gobs of Dippity Do, and he'd have his neck hair "blocked" only. While he was on duty, then, his hair was cemented in place, and the officers and senior petty officers would pretend they didn't notice. After his watch, he'd wash his hair and basically have a bowl haircut. I guess he felt that was acceptable to his non-Navy friends, and it eased his paranoia.

I knew another sailor who worried so much about what his civilian friends thought of his military service, he had a nervous breakdown and was medically discharged. He apparently never found a way to cope.

Like most everyone else I knew who was not in it for the long haul -- we ridiculed them, unfairly I know now, as "lifers" -- I too stretched the dress and grooming regulations as far as I could. I'm sure, though, that even when we weren't in uniform, people easily recognized us as military. But many of us first-termers suffered from the very real fear of being scorned, or worse, for being a part of such an unpopular war. We were afraid the average American hated us, and stretching the regs helped. It was one way to deal with the times.

And my part of the military, communication and support, suffered little bias compared to the marines, soldiers and airmen we knew --those who saw the real action. Though indirectly, we hurt for our fellow G.I.s who, usually after a couple of beers, would tell with a shrug how he'd been called names, spat at or, occasionally, even had something thrown at him as he walked through a West Coast airport, perhaps upon his return from WestPac.

Thank God, very little of that occurs in our nation today. There is a new sense of patriotism in the country that was deeply buried during Vietnam. We now have a renewed sense of national pride.

Having said that, I am a bit worried.

I see people recognizing and thanking our military men and women almost everywhere I go. (Maybe not during Black Friday, 'cause they'd be preoccupied with trampling each other over the post-Thanksgiving bargains. But I stay away from stores during that time, so I don't really know....)

Anyway, I'm extremely pleased that Americans today have again realized the sacrifices our military personnel and their families are making for us. And I believe we need to do more than just superficially thank them. I've seen too many examples of the hardships families go through when one or both of the spouses are called to active duty. I certainly do NOT believe Uncle Sugar is the panacea for every social ill. I do think, however, that if we call upon that portion of our citizens to serve us the way the military does, we need to make it right with them and their families while they serve, and reward them upon their return.

Currently, we're only giving 'em lip service.

I'm a middle-of-the-road-type guy, with leanings perhaps more to the right than left. And while I celebrate the patriotic revival the U.S. is experiencing, I see its darker side, too. Some are using it in ways that border on shameful.

For example, I disagree with most of the stuff currently espoused by liberals, or progressives, if you wanna call 'em that. But I am not and WILL NOT believe that all of those who do not agree with my points of view are un-American! I may believe they're misguided, perhaps foolish, and it seems too many times lately, dumber than a box of rocks. But I DON'T go along with the "America, love it or leave it" attitude too many of us are spouting today. That's too darn close to the attitude I saw too many examples of during the Vietnam era. Too many people were blindly following an administration's policies that arguably were dragging/pushing us ever closer to fascism.

This Independence Day, I see too many Americans NOT thinking for themselves. Instead, they seem again to be BLINDLY following someone or a group of someones claiming love of country as their motivation and wrapped in the flag of convenient patriotism. I see Americans looking across a political gulf and pointing fingers, playing the blame game; even hating other Americans who don't share their views. And it doesn't matter which end of the political spectrum they're on.

It is MY duty, as it is YOURS, to criticize the injustice, unfairness and illegalities we see in our nation. Because I see something differently from you, however, doesn't mean YOU are subversive and I am infallible, or vice versa. As Christians are charged to "love the sinner, hate the sin," we Americans are charged to respect each other, dislike the viewpoint.

Putting this nation together, the Founding Fathers didn't see eye to eye by any stretch of the imagination. We don't need to, either.

Far Left, Far Right, Conservatives, Liberals, Progressives, Moderates, Radicals, Tea Party-ers, Democrats, Republicans:


...If you don't we won't have anyplace, or any reason, to dance....

1 comment:

P Middleton said...

Well said, Scurvy! I just now got around to reading this. What can I say, I was on vacation when this was posted! I'm probably a little more leaning leftward than you. But I agree wholeheartedly with this missive. Best, PM