God and Country
May 31st, 2010
I confess that I’m one of those people for whom Memorial Day is mostly about cookouts and a long weekend. I’m never quite sure what to do with the holiday, largely because my personal life experience has been pretty much military-free. While I value, respect, and admire the men and women who have served our country over the years, I’ve never had a close relationship with anyone who has served in the military.
My family doesn’t have much military history. My grandfather, being a Mennonite, was a Conscientious Objector during WWII and while his service was great and he has some truly amazing stories, they don’t involve armed conflict. My uncle served briefly in the Navy, but that was long before I was born and it’s never come up much since. My dad received deferments because he was a teacher during the height of Vietnam, and I suspect I would have grown up with a very different life — as a Canadian — had he ever been drafted.
In High School I won a state-wide speech contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which I waxed eloquent about “My Service to America.” It was a pretty speech that I’m quite proud of, but honestly I think my success can be attributed more to the fact that I write well than to any profound grasp of the topic.
I suspect some of my disconnect with Memorial Day stems from being surrounded for most of my life by academic, liberal, democrats. I often find myself pondering exactly when (and why) it was that the Liberals as a group ceded both God and Country to the Right, but we definitely have done so.
And so “patriotism” has become an odd thing in our country, too often presented in stereotypical overdrive as “God loves the USA best so let’s blow up the heathens.” Yikes. And yet the flip side we Lefties have too often espoused — the “I’m embarrassed to identify myself with this colonial, war-mongering country” philosophy — isn’t really appealing to me either because I happen to love being an American and am fully cognizant of the amazing privileges associated with being one.
I’m sure there’s a middle ground out there somewhere!