Reflections on Being Patriotic

(This post originally titled “Giving Thanks as a Nation” appeared
on Nearly Orthodox November 28th, 2013)

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Our trip to New York this past summer was a whirlwind. We saw an opportunity to go with very little notice. Dave had a client meeting in the area and the flights were cheap and available. We packed up everyone, made a hasty plan, booked a room and embraced the adventure of it all. With three days in the city, we stayed in the heart of Times Square and made that our base camp of sorts. We wandered around the city, taking in a play or musical here, a ride through Central Park there, museums during the day, late night gelato in the Square at night. We watched the flashing lights as we fell asleep, we ate bagels from the little hole in the wall deli across the street in the morning. It was exhilarating and exhausting.

When it was time to go we rented a car and took a drive just outside the city, checked into a small, quiet hotel and while Dave attended his meeting the kids and I spent time at the pool, eating fast food and then watching television. It was a vacation from our vacation.

The next day we got up and drove a handful of hours to Philadelphia. We only had a day or two there before we needed to head back to New York for our flight so we chose our path through the city with a historical and mainly patriotic bent. We took the requisite tours, read the materials and marveled at the old buildings and historical landmarks. We waited in long lines to see artifacts of our national history.

It was here, at the Liberty Bell that I felt some odd sense rise up in me, some latent national pride as I wrangled my four children around the bell. They were tired, worn out already from the tours and travel, cranky and uncooperative but I wanted that photo. This was, honestly, as close as we got to that obligatory, “traditional family visit to a historical site” photo.IMG_7948And they could not figure out why I was suddenly so disappointed, why I was so angry at the perceived loss of a photo-op. They apologized as the line pressed us out the door to and away from that photo-op. They could not figure out why, when looking at the Liberty Bell I began to tear up, why I could barely form words to explain it in that moment. All I could say later when asked was, “I guess I’m kind of patriotic.”

So when given the assignment to write about “giving thanks as a nation” I found I was struck by this memory. Being a bleeding heart Liberal on the political spectrum I sometimes feel I don’t have the benefit of the doubt where my patriotism is concerned. To my very conservative friends my choices and beliefs mean that I sometimes receive the judgement that I don’t love America enough, that I’m hell-bent on destroying what some feel is the American dream and most of the time I don’t know how to answer that, because, in truth, I’m not sure what that dream ought to be.

For myself, though, standing in the hall that housed the Liberty Bell I had a sense of that. It was a decidedly entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit that led our ancestors here, across an ocean into the unknown wilds. It was a tenacious and maybe fool-hardy crowd, a group of people who went out into the great wide world knowing little and who, after a time, broke away from the oversight of the country that had birthed them and struck out on their own. This is what I encountered as I stood in that hall and wrangled my children and I felt that sense of thanksgiving, of gratitude and pride, that no matter how things unfold on the political or cultural spectrums, this is my home, this is my heritage, this is my history. I guess I’m a little patriotic after all.

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