Friday, November 5, 2010

Proud to be an American

About 15 years ago, a good friend of mine, Leonardo Tanda, came to visit me from Milan, Italy.  He wanted to go to New York, so I met him there at JFK airport.  One of the first things he said to me was, “Why are there so many American flags here in America?”  I responded in my characteristic sarcastic way, “what did you expect, Angola flags?”  This was in the days before 9-11, and we got to visit the World Trade Center Towers, and a number of other sites.  There are even more flags in New York City today. 

After considering his question for a few days, it hit me that when I was abroad in a number of different countries living and working, I hadn’t seen very many flags.  I know that the people are quite are patriotic in Argentina (I spent 22 months there), Italy (I spent close to 20 months there), Mexico (I spent many months there, at least 6), Spain (I spent a month there) or any of the other countries I have worked in (The People’s Republic of China, Japan, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Canada, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Brazil, etc), but there are more flags in the good ole US of A that in those other countries.


Strangely enough, as I was driving back from a store about five miles away from my house, and I counted no less than 18 American flags: two at churches, one at a school and the rest in neighbors’ yards, either on flagpoles like the one in the photo, or on flag holders on the houses themselves.  I don’t think I have ever seen someone’s yard with a flagpole flying their country’s flag in another country.

Why so many flags?  Well, Patriotism is a key part of our culture.  Being patriotic is cool.  Being unpatriotic is, well, uncool.  There are few things worse than being labeled as unpatriotic.  Being homophobic or even anti-gay is one of those things that is worse than being called unpatriotic.  One of the few things worse than being labeled as a homophobe is being labeled as a Racist, and the only thing worse than being labeled a Racist is being labeled a pedophile.  Homophobic racist pedophiles who are unpatriotic have it bad.  But I digress.


Why are millions of Americans so patriotically convinced that the USA is the greatest country on earth?  It is puzzling considering only 1 in 5 Americans owns a passport (and even fewer have actually traveled outside the USA.)  Interestingly enough, far fewer have ever lived outside the USA.  In fact, 40% of Americans have never lived outside the town where they were born!  Don’t get me wrong: America is a very great place to live, and of all the places I have visited, I like the USA the best.  It is just strange to me how convinced people are without even visiting anywhere else.

Patriotism can inspire some strong emotions.  I will tell you that every time I hear Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, I get teary eyed.  Especially at the Lasershow at Stone Mountain Park.

It should come as no surprise that patriotism (Like Jesus) is used  (quite effectively I might add) to sell products.  Buy American, the saying goes.

Full Tank of Freedon

Patriotism is used to sell all kinds of products, from Automobiles to beer to Gasoline to designer clothing.

The funny thing about this photo is that Marathon Oil Company is a global operation, and it imports over 64 million barrels of oil from the Middle East each year.

With globalization running rampant, the world has become a confusing place for patriots.  I mean, should we be concerned about American Flags being made in China?

I learned patriotism from my father.  He served during the Viet Nam war (which, surprisingly enough, is known as “the American War” if you are Vietnamese.)  His father, Smitty, was career military. 

At times I my patriotism has caused me to stand out from the crowd.  Once, for example, I was the only one standing at a graduation ceremony because the program said to remain standing after the National Anthem.  2,000 other folks sat, and I alone stood, and when a person behind me said “why don’t you sit down like the rest of us,” I replied with the only sensible thing that would come to my mind: “why don’t you read the program, you ignorant red neck.”  I guess maybe I was a bit over the top. Another time, at a football game, My boys and I were the only ones to stand and remove our hats as the Colors were presented

But in spite of my feelings, I can’t say that I am at all as patriotic as those who serve our Country in the US military.  Personal sacrifice for our country is the truest sign of patriotism.


  1. I have to agree with you that the U.S. is a great country - none of the countries I have visited compare. I will never forget the day we rode into what was then communist Yugoslavia and tanks were rolling down the streets and soldiers patrolling the area. I think all Americans should travel outside the country; some don't even realize how very different each U.S. state is, let alone other countries.

  2. Every trip I have taken outside the US, I am reminded of how blessed I am to live where I live. I am also reminded of the fact that we still have a ton to learn from other countries and cultures.

    I think most people, even ones who have traveled extensively have a strong emotional connection to their birth country.

    Every immigrant I have met here in the US, from the ones who came as babes in the arms of their parents, to ones who were but weeks from emmigrating, all have a nostalgic love for their home country. Even ones who I have met who came here seeking refuge or asylum from an oppressive situation (be it political or otherwise) still hold strongly to certain cultural threads from their birth country. For many it is the food, the language, the sports, the music, etc.

    As Americans, we can either learn from the beautiful things from these other cultures, even incorporating some of them into our own, or we can isolate ourselves from them and distance ourselves.

    I am saddened by all the bumperstickers, t-shirts, etc. that read, "This is America. Learn English."

    How utterly boring would the world be if we were all the same?

  3. Thank you for a great post. I am sorry I'm a little slow at getting to it.

    Living abroad has both made me thankful and proud as well as made me humble and appreciative of the beauties that lie beyond our borders. We have so much to learn from others, yet so much to be grateful for. If only each American citizen could spend 2 weeks soaking in the fullness of another country and culture, how enriched and educated would our society be, just from experiencing the richness that other nations have to offer!?

    Yet, there is no other Promised Land, full and ripe with blessings of prosperity and freedom. I am afraid for the possibility of losing those privileges given by our Maker because of our Nation's growing apathy. As the world becomes an increasingly wicked place, our youth are battered by temptations and our society is losing sight of God's role in our prosperity. It worries me to think of where our pride as a Nation might one day lead us. However, as I've said before, we live in such a Land as does not exist beyond our borders.

    Thanks for a great post!