You Say You “Love America.” Really? Or Just the Movie Version?

This is a Good Time to Examine What We Mean by “Love of Country”

So, What Defines a Patriot?

This is a bit of a trick question in any country, of course. Most thoughtful people would say it does not mean “Love it or Leave it.” Nor does it mean “My Country, Right or Wrong.” That would be an infantile response. Reasonable adults should be able to care deeply for their country and still recognize when it has erred.

But in America, it is a bit trickier. This is the case because this is a country founded on ideas and an ideal. It was, from the beginning, diverse (much more so of late, of course), and composed of people whose only real tie to each other has been those ideas and ideals. Not so much geography. Certainly not an ethnic bond. In short, we are, when we are at our best, bound together not so much by what America is or has been, but what it strives to be – what we seek to make it, every generation, over time.

Love or Addictive Infatuation?

This is an exceptionally large, complicated country. It has come to dominate a continent and be a leading, often the leading, force in the world. One does not reach such exalted status without some cruelties, some errors, some misjudgments along the way. Not possible.

To refuse acknowledging the bad along with the good is not love, although it certainly is blind. It is seeing only a partial view of who we are and how we got to be who we are. It is denying half the truth. Allow me to hasten to add that the reverse is also true; to dismiss much of the wonder and beauty of our country, to fixate only on our sins is equally blind – and useless.

I have often stated in this space that one of the indicators of value I look for in political and historical exchanges in the ability to call out the good and the bad, wherever it lands. It pained me to do so, but on a couple of occasions I thought it right to note Trump said something important or took a useful step.

Similarly, I think Biden is, for the most part, doing a spectacularly good job (better than I had hoped), but he has come up short on some issues already in his first year. Once again, it pains me, but I think it important for supporters to call out foul balls on their own team.

Take That Up to a National Scale

If your thought process is that America is beyond criticism, or is deserving of nothing but despair and scorn, let’s save ourselves some time and not have a discussion. It would likely be a waste of time for both of us.

I am looking for people who want to know, and want to acknowledge the whole truth. I am looking for people who can celebrate the highlights (and there are many) and can call out the moral or other failures. In some ways, the latter, calling out failures, is the more important process.

For it is only by acknowledging these can we hope to right what is wrong, where that is possible, acknowledge error (dare I say Sin?) when they exist, and work to do better going forward. If you think nothing has ever been broken, you will never build a better America.

Why Raise All This Now?

We have a lot on our national plate these days, you may have noticed. Why take this time and space now to talk about how we see our country?

Because there is a serious and sustained movement afoot, at many levels, to simply pretend any downsides of our history does not exist and therefore cannot be taught or discussed. I cannot imagine a more Un-American thought. It is flat unacceptable and should be fought at every level.

There are always people eager to ban books. They are certainly at work today, in many communities. The list of works they seek to ban is startling. Some are true classics; others are serious treatment of important issues.

People who frankly have no clue as to what Critical Race Theory is oppose it, or anything like it, be taught anywhere. Others oppose anything associated with Woke culture. Still others do not want anyone’s kids to learn anything about human sexuality outside their own narrow existence. As though all those other types of people do not exist or represent some sort of cosmic error.

For pate’s sake, we are deep into the 21st century. We can do better than this.

Why Is This Happening – Again?

This is not something new in history, ours or other countries. Book burning is a pretty popular pastime in many places, thought history.

People pushing such small mindedness tend to do so for two reasons, both equally invalid. One is the idea that none of this is true. The country has always been right and benevolent, with history unrolling as it should. This would be shocking news to minorities and Native Americans.

The other reason cited of late is that it makes White kids nervous, uncomfortable, and feeling guilty. Gosh, minority kids have never had to deal with any of that in the past, have they? Well, yeah, they did – and do. If teaching real history makes all of us uncomfortable at some points, good. That means we are doing it right.

Teaching half – history, be it all good or all bad, is a moral and an intellectual crime. Kids deserve better. We should be able to say that some parts of our society have gotten a better deal than others and that is unfair. That is happened is not your fault, new generations. What may be done about it is, in part your responsibility. How are they to plot a course for the future with only half a map?

This is About Access to Truth for All

Be clear in understanding that people who want to narrow curriculums and empty library shelves are not just trying to shape their kids in a particular mold. They are trying to force everyone’s kids into the same molds, by denying all the whole truth.

It is probably too simplistic a formulation, but I would love to see an approach to history, society, and culture that acknowledges up front there is much to celebrate and much to atone for in America. We intend to fully do both. We owe that to those that follow us. When we fail to do that, we fail those children, and we damage our future. I think we are big boys and girls – we can handle the truth.

Let your local councils and school boards know you support and expect real and complete studies. You support full curriculums and diverse libraries.

This is America, dammit. Act like it.

              Bill Clontz

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