The Measure of Patriotism

It has been given a bad name in my book–another word defiled by the NewSpeaking admin recreating the language in its own image. Let’s put patriotism back in context, shall we, not as an ACT, not as an -ism. This, the willingness to give up something for the good of country is perhaps a step in the right (and/or left) direction:

Bill Maher is asking some good questions of Democratic presidential candidates in the HuffPost and Yahoo candidate mash up. Here’s a question he asked John Edwards:

“Senator Edwards, you’ve suggested that Americans should give up their SUVs for the sake of the environment, but a recent UN study found that deforestation for the purpose of creating grazing land for cattle and methane emissions from cattle generated more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and planes in the world, so it’s not just the SUVs, it’s the C-O-W-S. Taking a shot at SUVs was gutsy. Do you want to take a shot at meat?”

Edwards does a little shuffling and dancing at the beginning – no doubt he knows how the cattle industry went after George McGovern in the 70s and Oprah in the not too distant past and was thinking about how he can avoid making them angry – but he wraps up with a pretty good comment:

I do think we need a president who actually says to America “you have to be willing to sacrifice.” Who calls on Americans to sacrifice, instead of just making a bunch of promises about what the president is going to. Who says to America: “if you love your country, you need to be patriotic about something other than war. You need to say I’m willing to drive more fuel efficient vehicles, I’m willing to conserve in my home, I’m willing to conserve in my workplace.” Because all of us have to do this together. I mean, that’s real patriotism.”

And while we’re at it, let’s reclaim the word awe: a mixed emotion of reverence, respect, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or power. They can’t own that one either. Mutiny, my friends. Retake the language. Use it for good.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I agree whole heartedly! This administration doesn’t know the meaning of patriotism! I’m sick of this administrations defination of many things, especially torture!

  2. i like john edwards, except his record on abortion issues, being the pro-lifer that i am.

    we WILL have to make sacrifices at some point. if we don’t make some of these smaller, voluntary ones now, i believe we’re in for some huge, forced ones in the future…. like being without good water, more crazy weather patterns/natural disasters, etc.

  3. Yes, yes, yes, a real patriotism, and yes to awe as well – we need to awe-waken and smell the rain, sometimes the coffee of course, but always the rain and roses and birch logs in the wood stove and falling leaves in October.

  4. I honestly can’t think of a more fitting icon of the nasty left than Bill Maher. I’ll stick with Dennis Miller for my laughs.