With Liberty and Justice For All

With Independence Day coming up, the pet peeve I want to discuss today is one that involves patriotism.  One thing that bugs me is how the appropriate protocol for how to behave during the Pledge of Allegiance or when the National Anthem is played is no longer taught in school.  A lot of my children’s friends, all young adults, don’t even know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance or the title of the National Anthem, much less what is expected of them when these things are broadcast.

There are so many other nations that would jail a person or worse for failing to display proper patriotism.  Some countries even censor or restrict their citizens’ use of the internet.  I used to know a German woman who was a girl during the holocaust.  She said her family had to close their windows and whisper when they spoke because German soldiers patrolled the sidewalks and listened in.  Her older brother was eventually taken when he was only a teenager because he was heard speaking out against Hitler.  She never saw him again!

But perhaps I’m fighting a losing battle.  If my government took patriotism out of schools so as not to offend some of its own citizens, then who am I to complain?  Perhaps THAT is my actual pet peeve!  Perhaps I show more loyalty to a government than it shows to itself.

Talk to me about patriotism:  Do you know how to properly dispose of an American flag?  Do you know the appropriate protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance?   Do you know what you are expected to do when the National Anthem is played?  Do you know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance and the title of the National Anthem?

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67 thoughts on “With Liberty and Justice For All

  1. Rachel – to me overt patriotism is one of the curses of the human race. To be patriotic for a piece of land defined by merely lines drawn on a map is illogical. As an atheist and one in favour of a republic over a monarchy even the first line of ‘our’ anthem sends me insane – i.e. ‘God save our gracious Queen…’ The first I do not believe in; the latter I want rid of. I must admit others do seem to get the hump when I ignore the song and refer to myself as a European! Can’t think why!

    • And, Mike, you just proved my very point… You don’t like the first line of your anthem for two reasons which are based on your educated judgment. You KNOW the lines and you have valid REASONS for feeling as you do. My point was so many of these young adults I encounter don’t even KNOW them. It’s not a matter of if they agree with them or not, but they were never taught them to have the opportunity to form an educated opinion. In the past five years, I would guess I’ve met close to a dozen older teenagers/young twenty-somethings who do not even know the number of states we have.

      • That is a very interesting point – erasing history or not even bothering to teach history is a bad thing. Youngsters must have such knowledge in order to get a handle on what is good/what is bad/make a valued judgement. For example, even arch atheist Richard Dawkins believes that all churches should be treasured for architectural and historical reasons here in Europe. For even as (save for Islam) religion is on the wane and church attendances have dropped off to all time record lows we must not lose sight of the fact that they are/were part of our past. Each generation must know of all that has gone before – good and bad.

      • Right. But I think it’s also interesting that as an atheist, you don’t seem like the person who will infringe on my Christian beliefs and we can politely just agree to disagree. To each his own. But so many people of ALL religions (or what would you call atheism? A non-religion perhaps?) aren’t like us. They get very loud and demanding that other people conform so as not to offend them.

        I, for one, even though I am Christian, have many friends of non-Christian beliefs. My own daughter was wiccan for a while and now she’s Buddhist. One of my very best friends is Jewish. If these people wish me Happy Winter Solstace or Happy Hannukah, it does not offend me at all. In fact, I think it’s nice of them to feel comfortable enough to wish me something. Likewise, if they wish me a Merry Christmas, I think it’s extra nice that they go out of their way to wish me what they think will make me happy.

        As a business owner, I am not allowed NOT to photograph certain weddings because I might not agree with the religion under which they are performed. If I did, I would be guilty of discrimination. So when I go to certain types of churches or mosques, when they pray to their god, I am respectful. I don’t photograph during the prayer just as I don’t at a Christian church. I attempt to emulate their customs and do the best I can (unless of course I am working a camera at the time). NOT because I am unloyal to my God, and NOT because I am switching teams, but because I respect them as PEOPLE. And unless they are doing something completely heinous that goes against my moral code (such as beating women or torturing and killing animals or something as awful), then I’m not going to make a stink about it.

        So back to my original point, when you choose not to participate in something, you are doing so because you are making an educated decision. And it’s probably considered “unpatriotic” of me, but I think so many other nations are far more educated than mine.

      • Aside from compassion the key word missing from the human race is ‘respect.’ So I agree with you entirely. What I believe is for me and me alone – the day I try to convert is the day I will have lost the plot. ‘Respect’, ‘Compassion’, ‘History’ – a trinity of fine words.

  2. Rachel, I have many problems with Theodore Roosevelt but he has the best quote on patriotism, that I know of:

    “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

    I guess I’d have to disagree with Mike on this one though, I would find it relatively easy to be patriotic about England with its traditions of freedom and independence paralleling our own, in fact being our own until 1776. Why anyone would self identify with a feuding, fascist Europe is beyond me. Takes all kinds, I guess, but I still like him a lot.

  3. What lights me up is hearing people who, when they had the opportunity to serve their country and chose not to, call loudly for war, tell me “Thank you for your service”, and claim they are Patriots and “great Americans. Wrapping up in the flag is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I can’t remember who said that but it’s one of my favorites.

  4. Rachel, I completely agree that showing honor and respect for the millions of men and women who willingly gave their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms we have today is vitally important! I’ve noticed that those who refuse to be patriotic are the first to claim their right to free speech and other freedoms, which they would not have if not for those who built this great nation. I was a public school teacher for four years, and it really upset me to see how many students refused to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance when the school played it over the loudspeaker each morning. Everyone has the right to their own opinions, but instead of raising their children to be grateful for our country and willing to fight for it, a shocking number of parents are almost teaching their children to despise the very nation that protects their rights! It scares me to think of the consequences of such foolishness…. thank for your post!

  5. This is another great post. I think students ought to be taught a line by line breakdown of the Declaration of Independence by someone with a bit of dramatic flare. When those people pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, it actually meant something. They had a real skin in the game, and many of the signatories did not fare so well after the fact.

  6. Canadians are not as patriotic as Americans. I’m not sure if I believe that our behavior should be monitored or dictated to us though.

    Especially not as you mentioned in your story about your German friend. My parents are from Berlin and were children during WWII. My dad was made to join the Hitler Youth which is like the boy scots but scary. When children wore this uniform, teachers, heck not even parents could discipline their children. Children turned in even their parents, for spanking them and some parents were executed. My grandmother burned my dad’s uniform – a brave lady.

    I am proud to be Canadian and when my country steps up to the plate, I don’t need protocol defined for me. Having said that, on many occasions I have been moved to tears watching the patriotism of my southern neighbours.
    Thanks for this provoking question Rachel!
    Diana xo

  7. It saddens me to see how the respect for our country and the freedom we have has declined among citizen’s. These freedoms have come at a great cost and that awareness seems to be getting lost along the way. Great post Rachel!

  8. This is a sensitive subject. Not a lot of people have respect for our country even though they live in it. I always celebrate the red, white, and blue. But, I am only do my part in my community and the society. Sadly, I have not been contributing a lot in my state because due to violence that seems to be EVERYWHERE in Wilmington, Delaware. I am a work in progress. Great post, Rachel!

  9. Great post! I consider myself very Patriotic. I love my Country and I love our troops! I don’t always agree with the President, as I didn’t vote for him, but I still believe in being RESPECTFUL towards him because after all, he IS our President!

  10. Hi Rachel

    I think the problem with ‘patriotism’ is that it covers a myriad of beliefs. The worst is the ‘we are [insert name of country] so therefore we are better than everyone else’. It can be very borderline fascism.

    We don’t go over the top in the UK fortunately. Standing up and possibly singing the national anthem is respectful. But any more strikes me as window dressing. I judge my country, and those where I live as objectively as any other.

    Patriotic means many things to many people. Going to die for a war that shouldn’t be started but politicians have decreed it? Opposing governmental legislation? Criticising my country? Does that make anyone un-patriotic? Or should we always believe our country is correct or right in its actions?

    Watching the World Cup, it’s good to see the teams who can sing their national anthem. After all, they are representing their country and getting paid for it. But at the same time,this sport, that should bring people together, should not separate them on nationalistic grounds. As it often does.

    I think in America you have a very different view of the concept to other countries.

    • I think in the UK, your youth is more educated than ours. I’m not saying that I think we should give blind faith to ideals we may not agree with. I’m just saying that over here, too many kids and young adults don’t even KNOW these things and therefore don’t even possess the tools to make an educated decision. 🙂

  11. I don’t think I can say it better than John Mark Miller did, but I also want to add that when I do say the Pledge of Allegiance, I recite the 1923 version and don’t speak the words “under God.” Those words were added in 1954 as a knee-jerk reaction to the threat of Communism. I don’t believe in god and am not paying lip service to an imaginary being that has no business being in our pledge anyway.

    • And as I told Mike Steeden above, the very fact that you know the difference between the the 1923 version and the 1954 version, proves my very point. You made your choice based on your educated judgment. You know the words and you have a valid reason for feeling as you do. In the past few years, I have met so many young adults who don’t even know the words or things such as that they are supposed to stand and remove their hats. It’s not a matter of if they agree with them but apparently they haven’t been taught so that these young adults have the opportunity to form an educated opinion. I currently know about a dozen older teenagers/young twenty-somethings who don’t even know how many states we have. Happy 4th! 😀

      • Excellent point. I think it goes back to our culture as a whole being dumbed down. People can readily tell you the name of the latest Kardashian baby, but they have no clue who our first President was. Happy 4th to you as well!

  12. I think that children should be taught useful things like reading, writing, math, science and such rather than being indoctrinated with a specific ideology. They should be taught how to think so that they can truly and freely appreciate the many freedoms our culture allows. I’ve always hated having to recite the pledge of allegiance. I’ve always felt that the meaning is lost with mindless repetition. However, I don’t consider myself to be an unpatriotic person. I just choose to express myself as I feel comfortable and don’t feel the need for outward displays and declarations, which is one of my many freedoms.

    • I agree that the meaning can be lost with repeated, forced recitation. However, I just feel that if people live in our country, they should KNOW the words to the pledge and national anthem as well as basic things like how many states we have. In this day and age, almost all of us know someone who is in the armed services. I think it’s important to understand WHY those people choose to serve, regardless of whether or not we agree with them for doing so. Have a great weekend! 😀

  13. I too have noticed this uncertainty on the part of the late teens, early twenty somethings. It is something hard to understand in my generation. We grew up hearing and learning and watching and being instructed as to the learning of the pledge and the words of the lyrics to the patriotic song, especially the National Anthem. I think it is not unreasonable to expect a behavior consistent with the needs of a grateful country to those who have given so much. I do thing these ought to be know. The responsibility falls to the adults to show the young how respect is given to those who have earned our gratitude. This ought not be overlooked. We have no reason not to do so. STay safe this holiday.

  14. I know the Pledge of Allegiance because students use to recite it in schools. Somewhere in the 90s it must have disappeared. It is sad that old traditions are disappearing because of fear of offending others, which is what I heard from others why it disappeared from schools. I don’t know–what can you do–have a great holiday 🙂

    • I guess I just feel that because it IS a national anthem or pledge, it NEEDS to be taught first. Then if someone is offended by it, they will at least know WHY they are offended rather than just being told they should be offended by other people who have researched their reasons. Have a safe and happy 4th! 😀

  15. It’s more than patriotism, Rachel, it’s a matter of respect Even if you don’t know the words or that you should take off your hat and hold your hand over heart in honor of what others who’ve come before you have done so you can have certain rights in this country — or even if you disagree with those political ideals or doctrines — you should have enough decorum to shut your damn mouth so those around you can can exercise their choice to partake in the pledge or anthem without your disruption.

    • Amen, Mark! You made my own point better than I did. I’m sure you must experience this a lot at sports events. (If they sill play the National Anthem at games?) Have a safe and happy 4th! 😀

      • They do play it a sporting events, and I stand, put my hand with my hat in it over my heart, and sing the words, Rachel. That’s just me. I don’t love everything about policy and procedure, but I sure do love my country. Happy Fourth, my friend.

      • I do the same, just because I think it’s the right thing to do. It made me a little angry when I saw on the Olympics (Hey, that’s sports!) this year when a couple of different medalists placed, they didn’t know the words or what to do. I’m one of those that also can’t stand when people complain about the president. I might not like all that he does, but I respect the office. Happy Fourth to you, too! 🙂

  16. I always think of my dad on patriotic holidays and his strong feelings on how the flag should be respected and honored. To him, it was a sign of freedom, of sacrifice paid for by the blood of many whose names are forgotten by history. He taught his family to rise every time the flag passed by in parades and to say a brief prayer for those nameless men – and now, women – who gave so much for so many. Fine post, Rachel.

  17. I agree. It frustrates me that people forget about patriotism! How can they not know to take their hats off when the flag comes down the street, or put their right hands over their heart when they say the pledge of allegiance.

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