The true test of Patriotism
By Tedd Emelianov
Over the past few months I have been reading a fair deal more news that I am used to, and to be honest, it is a decision that I wholeheartedly regret. While I do enjoy being informed and knowledgeable, I decided to venture into the realm of political news, and all that happened was that I became upset and slightly depressed. The trend of chest beating and flag waving has become far too prevalent for my tastes, and the self-proclaimed patriots defending America just make me sick.
As a former college student whose sole news source used to be the Daily Show, I was sheltered from the realities of today’s political landscape by a thick veil of satire. I cannot point to any one issue that truly bothered me, and I would not be so presumptuous to assume that someone with my limited experience could solve the problems this country is facing; I leave that thankless task to the intelligent and idealistic experts.
But there has been a certain presence to all of the stories that has earned my ire; that being the aforementioned overzealous patriotism which seems to be of limitless supply. The more I read of government surveillance programs, federal spending choices, religious encroachment, and unintelligent conduct by citizen and candidate alike, the more I get upset. I’ve had fantasies of civil war, of uprisings to take over the country and make changes for the better. I have also seriously considered leaving, moving somewhere far away, where the problems don’t seem so real. If given the choice, I didn’t know how I would act.
But recently, I have remembered what it is to be patriotic and love your country. Thanks to a variety of journalists, writers, and performers, I am finally able to articulate my opinion on what loving your country truly means to me. And what it all boils down to a single simple question.
Would you piss on the flag, to stop it from burning?
An uncomfortable image to be sure, but the truth is often uncomfortable and hard to face. This to me is the ultimate test of what it means to love your country, and your answer shows exactly what you think patriotism really means.
If you answer yes, then you are exactly what it is about this country that makes me so upset. The flag is a symbol; it represents both the physical and ideological aspects of what makes up our country. To answer yes would mean sacrificing the ideology that this country is founded on in order to save the country itself. It would mean abandoning what the symbol stands for in favor of the symbol itself. And what would be the result? All you would be left with is a half burnt, piss stained shell of what used to be, devoid of principle, crumbling around you.
I would let it burn, and you can take that as ignorant or hateful if you must, but I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, a country dies when the people decide to abandon the ideals that built it in the first place; when we acquiesce to fear and hatred, and let our personal liberties falter in face of potential destruction. It isn’t lines on a map or buildings on the earth that make up a country, nations exist solely within the minds of its citizens. They are unified by common beliefs and desires, and are made unique by freedom of their populace.
To me, patriotism means questioning our leaders, even when we think they are right. It means admitting your country’s flaws, and seeing the advantages of different systems. It means abiding by the spirit rather than the letter of the law. And most importantly, it means letting it burn when it should.
It makes me fearful that there exists a law which allows the government to prohibit the burning of the American flag. It seems that we have chosen as a nation to attempt to put out the embers of an already dying fire. If given the choice I would burn a flag, but not in hatred or anger. I do not hate this country; it saved me from a life in a truly oppressive environment. I would burn that flag in celebration that a country can exist with such freedoms. And then I would go out a buy a new American flag, made in America, and I would proudly hang it over my door and proclaim; I am a patriot.