Samuel Johnson, a great 18th Century British literary figure once said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Those words resonate well today because the scoundrels among us are multiplying as the light of patriotism dims into self interest.
Chauvinism, jingoism and perfunctory patriotism is running rampant and has become a method of keeping score on a citizen’s loyalty to the homeland. Perhaps the reason for this is that our best response to President Kennedy’s words, “ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country,” has been reduced to standing for the flag and the national anthem.
Even then, there is something peculiar that I have noticed at public events such as football games that has me wondering about the relevance of the acts of honoring the flag and the anthem by many of those attending. Have you noticed that many times, the last part of the song is drowned out by increasingly loud crowds that are already into the game before the last notes of the music are completed?
I belong to a veteran’s organization where honoring the flag is taken most seriously. The act of standing and saluting it as the colors are posted and saying the Pledge of Allegiance provides a time for reflection about our lives honored to live in this country and colored by the sacrifice and benefits that express us as a united people.
There is a sense of urgency on the part of those that have served to greet the flag again and reconfirm the covenant that for many, was their companion in battle. There is also a sense of dismay on the part of many veterans when something as simple as honoring the flag is complicated by body language and contortions that confuse the notion of allegiance.
It is true that those that have served have been known to say that their actions have helped to defend everyone’s freedom of speech and that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution has been bought and paid for by their sacrifice. Therefore, it is that the freedom, not the honor of the flag, can be a source of criticism and disagreement, but not a disqualification for being an American.
Far more damaging is the crowd that practices a form of what is called in Spanish “patrioterismo,” a chauvanistic, flag-waving, “more American than thou” shrilling stance that looks to devalue the loyalty of others in this country even if they served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country like Army Private Felix Longoria, a Latino from Three Rivers, Texas or were wounded or suffered as prisoners of war or both like Navy Captain John McCain, a United States Senator from Arizona. This damage is more pronounced when perpetrators are led by someone such as the President of the United States who dodged service in the Vietnam War five different times.
President Trump went even lower to accuse NFL players of being unAmerican and wanting them fired for not standing for the National Anthem as a way to feed his base and cover-up bad press concerning his poor reaction to the hurricane disasters that includes elements of blatant racism that divides the country.
I am a veteran that sees the flag and the pledge of allegiance as a promise of “justice for all.” I also look to the Constitution to be guaranteed by true patriots and not by those make-believe types that divide and bring dishonor.