A respectful response
Over the past months, I have read with interest the various letters Frank SanGregory has written in The Advertiser-Tribune. I have agreed with a number of his observations and disagreed with others. Though we come from different backgrounds, different political perspectives and different life-experiences, we are both “patriots.”
A patriot loves his country. Just as “patriotism” helped win World War II, (SanGregory), so also did “patriotism” begin World War II with the unquestioned following of the Nazi swastika and the Japanese rising sun. The Axis belligerents loved their countries and did what they considered their patriotic duties; we, coming from a totally different viewpoint, consider their duties to be atrocities. Patriotism defined as loyalty to the status quo or to leaders is a great definition of a fascist state, not of free people. Patriotism as an American is the courage to question the way things are and those in power. That is the patriotism or our revolutionary ancestors and the foundations of our nation’s birth. The revolution is never-ending until all are treated without bias before the law.
We in the United States have a lovely flag; we should all respect it — but not worship it. To say our flag represents all that is good is hypocrisy. It ignores the following of the flag that nearly exterminated our indigenous people and it certainly ignores the flags that flew over the ghettos of Detroit and Chicago and Birmingham within my lifetime. Our flag is a symbol of the good and the bad that is the history of our country. If there are needs that should be redressed (such as the widespread discrimination that still exists), a true patriot will bring those needs to the attention of others. The kneeling by a number of NFL players is not a “desecration” of our flag, as Mr. SanGregory states, but a patriotic attempt to bring the existence of discriminatory wrongs to as many people as possible. We should all support them; to hear them booed is such a sad commentary on the openness of our nation. Should laws be passed to prevent the expressions of their patriotism? As did Mr. SanGregory, I would also quote Albert Einstein: “Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.”
It was patriotism and not demonstrations by patriots that questioned the government that helped bring us to peace in the VietnamWar. I have no sympathy at all for demonstrators who reviled our soldiers; they were totally wrong to dishonor our men who fought in this ill-conceived conflict. But it was the majority of peaceful demonstrators, following the tenets of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., who brought about the realization that we were in an unwinnable war.
Mr. SanGregory asks, “Is it America, our country, that is guilty of discrimination?” And he answers his question with a “no” — it is individuals who are guilty. Well, that may be, but if the leader of a country, a person who supposedly represents the values of his country, has a number of expressed discriminatory biases (Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, women, the media and science, to name but a few) is it then not America that is guilty? Yes — collectively, we are guilty as individuals if we support or are complacent about the status quo. No person is free as long as any other person is in chains.
As for Kate Smith and “God Bless America,” yes, it is a beautiful song, as is “America the Beautiful.” Both are much more “singable” than “The Star-Spangled Banner” that few of us can master. To me, however, there is only one song that should be our national anthem, a song that would bring together every person in our country, no matter what his or her race, religion, sexual orientation or cultural background.
This song, written by the great Woody Guthrie in 1940, speaks of our country from New York to California, to the redwood forests and the Gulf Stream waters; it describes America’s diamond deserts and golden valleys, with wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling. The song is easy to sing, needs only a guitar as accompaniment and, best of all, tells all Americans, not just the wealthy, not just the educated, not just the Christian or the Caucasian but everyone that:
“This land is your land,
This land is my Land.
This land is made for you and me”
How can any words be more inclusive?