This posting, as the title suggests, is about patriotism and how it seems to be waning in the United States these days, even though we’re in the midst of a war for our very survival as a nation. This isn’t the first time, however, that these words from Francis Scott Key’s famous poem have been used for a title. They were used also for the title of a made-for-TV movie back in the 1990s. The movie wasn’t so much about patriotism though. It was a low-budget remake of two earlier movies about the same thing, Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove (or how I Learned to stop worrying and love the bomb).
I believe that, as an art-form, American-made movies tend to chronicle shifts in our national attitude, the evolution of our collective culture, and they say a lot about us to people overseas too. For example, some sex interest was included in the By Dawn’s Early Light version of the Cold War’s worst nightmare scenario: the pilot of a bomber zeroing-in on Moscow had a female co-pilot, a situation that clouded his judgment and resolve in carrying out his mission. Ughhh… Only in America!
I’m an old guy, actually a couple of years ahead of all the baby-boomers, which include President Bush. Those of my generation and older all seem to have something in common: no matter how bad the political situation gets at home, no matter how much the rest of the world hates us for unrepentantly using up more than our fair share of the world’s resources, spoiling the world’s environments, both physical and cultural, and generally acting like the spoiled imperial power that we are, we still love our country.
My wife and I live in a gated community of folks pretty much our own age, flags are flying everywhere on every appropriate occasion. On our house, the red-white-and-blue has been flying twenty-four/seven ever since nine-eleven. I’ve even installed a floodlight and put it on a timer so that the flag is appropriately illuminated during hours of darkness.
Few folks in our community or elsewhere our age, suffering with bad knees or not, would even think of sitting through the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at a high school football game… or anywhere else for that matter. We’re just made that way. But next time you’re at a local high school football game, take a look around while the band’s playing and folks are singing. Many of the younger set will be… well, not being exactly respectful. Something tells me something’s really wrong with this picture?
By the way, have you seen the latest Superman movie, Superman Returns? If you have, maybe you picked up on the change. Superman doesn’t fight for truth, justice and the American way anymore. Now he fights for truth, justice and “all that stuff.” The change was made on-purpose by the producers of this movie as part of the great “selling of America.” Foreign box-office receipts are extremely important, a big part of Hollywood’s profits, and foreigners just aren’t buying the American way these days.
An AARP Bulletin article, How Patriotic Are We, says that a recent Gallup poll found that 57 percent of American adults identify themselves as “extremely” or “very” patriotic today compared with 72 percent in a similar group polled just one year ago. Wait, the news gets worse: With a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points, the poll found a generational divide. Adults age 50-plus were far more likely (74 percent) to identify themselves as highly patriotic than those ages 18 to 34 (32 percent), or those 35 to 49 (60 percent). That’s only five percentage points lower than a year ago for those over 50, but a sharp 22 points lower for those under 50.
I know, I know. All you parents reading this are thinking, “Well, it must be because we aren’t teaching enough history or enough government or enough… whatever in public schools. It’s always the teachers’ fault, or so many of today’s crop of politicians will tell you. But I assure you, personally, even though we can’t lead our students in morning prayer, we do lead our students in the Pledge of Allegiance.
AARP conducted their own poll on this subject and found that patriotism has become closely tied to today’s polarized politics, with dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Iraq war central to those who feel less patriotic. “We don’t belong there. We’re in the midst of a civil war that is none of our business,” said Austin Katz, 71, a retired physician and political independent in Fort Gratiot, Mich.
Katz also expressed an overall disgust with politicians that is symptomatic of the general mood: “This is going to sound terrible, but I don’t believe any politician is honest anymore.”
You are not alone in your opinion of politicians, Mr. Katz. Many of us feel the same way but are still patriotic enough to want to do something about it. May I suggest that you consider allying yourself with Americans for Limited Government. This organi- zation believes, as I do, that a Constitutional Amendment for congressional term limits would do wonders toward changing the culture in Washington, and in each of our state capitals too, cultures that spawn corruption and violations of the Public Trust. I suggest this because we cannot expect politicians to police themselves; they’re only human afterall. Who can blame them for feathering their own beds. But if young people don’t believe they can trust anyone in government anymore because of this, how can we blame them for feeling less patriotic?
Maybe I’ve been watching too many movies like Oliver Stone’s JFK, and George Clooney’s recent Syriana and Goodnight and Goodluck, but I think this is a very sad state of affairs. Wouldn’t you agree?
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