In the last few months at my new job working as the sole “sales guy” for an international painting company I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time with several Brits who’ve been over in a regular rotation.  Mostly driven by simple Golden Rule humanity and nudged with a smidge of self-motivated corporate politicalness, I’ve taken it upon myself to guide them through the staple pieces of what it is I know to be American culture. At lunch, we eat Five Guys. At dinner, we drink Bud and eat bloody red steak and gravy-filled mashed potatoes. Last week me and this old chap went to a Monday Night Football game. While the game was terrible as the Jags lost greatly in a slow, boring fashion, it being his first “real football” game, The Brit had a huge time and so did I.  My fun, if nothing else, was in respect to the enjoyment I found in accompanying the introduction of positive experience to others – kind of like watching a toddler blow bubbles as their face, full of excitement, re-introduces the significance of the given act to you.  It was a real blast explaining the game of football and thinking on the otherwise obvious little intricacies of the game and on the way people treat one another or how and why we cheer or boo one team or the other and once you start to see bubbles you notice all of them in their wondrous enormity.
But it was what he mentioned a few days later as we sipped down a Thai Red Curry that has caused me to re-evaluate the importance of that big-little word which is this post’s title. He said, and I paraphrase in an italicized english accent, ‘I really appreciate the way everyone stood at attention during the singing of the national anthem. Even the little kids who were sitting next to us behaved and sang. They knew every word. In the U.K., if we were at a futball match and the national anthem were played, as much as thirty percent of the crowd wouldn’t have even stood from their seat. As a former serviceman, I really appreciated that.’

Even now, that really gets to me.  Why wouldn’t a citizen take pride enough in their country to honor its flag and stand by its side even when the goin gets tough?  Why not cry for My Country Tiss of Thee?  Why not be the first in line to kick some Iraqi-Nazi-Communist butt?

Patriotism, per Wiki, was first used in the Elizibethan era as a term for “fellow countrymen”.   Since then, it has been stretched and molded to become a punchline to draft servicemen.  Still, it is the glue that binds nations and states of minds to prejudices and labor unions and it may be most apparent at Barbecue engulfed tailgate parking lots outside college football games.

(And I’ve come to enjoy watching the fans at the football games almost as much as the game itself – the colors and the fashion show; the songs and the elaborate pageantry and the flags and mascots and all the hoopla; the worship of entertainers and contempt of the striped-shirted whistleblowers, but only if not in your favor; the expert conversations of monday morning quarterbacks and how separation makes way to cohesion as the painted-face little girls and boys smile-down comfort-burgers as big as their heads and how these collaborations around ideas bring us together on cool orange and brown leaved days)

But Why Patriotism?

Understanding that there are many possible explanations, I assert that Patriotism, in all of it’s many forms, is the manner by which we connect with the world through eachother.  It is like a great big hug and there is much warmth therein that keeps us through the cold times and we are drawn in as if a kid who stares at the bubbles that blow in the wind and hover for awhile and until they inevitably pop.  The adult in is thus discouraged in the midst of this earthshattering, lifechanging exposion.  Yet the kid in us knows that it was just a bubble, and he’ll just dip and lightly whoooo’s the wand again, certain that this one will be different, because wait till next year, we will rise, we will make things right this time, because we will never fail to begin.

Begin again and don’t ever lose the wonder and faith of the kid within,

Do More Now.


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