This past weekend in New York City, Puerto Rican flags were ubiquitous. The streets were flooded with red, white and blue on people, cars and everything else. Spanish music played all around. The Puerto Rican Day parade was a grand affair with the likes of Ricky Martin as well as some of the presidential hopefuls marching down Fifth Avenue. I like the celebratory atmosphere and the sense of community that I see in such events. A strong sense of group identity and pride can be a beautiful thing. The festivities of the weekend and the upcoming Fourth of July festivities got me to thinking about my own sense of patriotism and pride in my nation.Several years ago I worked at a summer camp. Our morning routine included a flag ceremony and reciting of the pledge. I remember feeling dismayed at the chit-chat that occurred during the raising of the flag and even during the pledge. One day I happened upon a couple of camp counselors who had just lowered the flag for the evening. They had a rock and were using the flag to toss it in the air and catch it again. This was another of the very few instances in which my outrage overcame my timidity, and I gave them a lecture about proper respect for the flag after which I huffily marched myself to the camp director and let him know about the flagrant disrespect of our country occurring on the camp grounds. (Yes, I was very self-righteous. I’ve learned a thing or two since then, I hope).

Fast forward some years later . . . I happen to have a credit card that has a flag design on it. I didn’t choose it myself, it’s just what they sent. I’ve had it for a number of years, and thought it was pretty cool when I first had it. However, a few weeks ago as I handed it to a checker at a store, I suddenly felt a sense of embarrassment. I feel some shame about the war and am troubled by the attitude I see among some flag wavers that we are better than everyone else. I wasn’t sure I liked what the flag display might say about me as a person.

I value my heritage, and I really do think that the United States of America is a great country. More and more, though, I see myself as part of something larger. Other countries, and the people in them, are worthy and beautiful and good as well. I am a part of the great fabric of humanity. We’re all in this together. As the Fourth of July rolls around this year I’ll be thinking how to embrace a patriotism I can feel good about and at the same time embrace a feeling of kinship with all of us here on the earth.

How do you relate to patriotism?

*Three Flags by Jasper Johns

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power.” From


    by Ron Paul

  2. Veritas says:

    I think patriotism is pride in its worst form. I think we should think of ourselves as members of the Human race and not really worry about any other distinction – be it from borders, skin color, religion or whatever. The flag is just a piece of cloth.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’ve had a similar evolution, Amy.

    I find the 4th of July a difficult holiday because there seem to be so many comments about how the U.S. is the best country in the world, how special it is because of all the consumer goods we have available, etc.

    I actually think there are a lot of great things about the U.S., but I dislike the implication that this country is better than all the other countries.

    My patriotism has recently become manifest in my political activism. For the first time in my life, I have political bumper stickers on my car, I made political phone calls, I email legislators on issues that are important to me. I feel that these are great ways to show my country how much I care about it.

  4. AmyB says:

    Veritas, do you think all forms of patriotism are bad? I like the idea of continuing to lessen distinctions and increasing our sense of connection with all of humanity. It seems to me that identifying with one’s country or ethnicity is a step on the way to identifying with all of humanity.

    Caroline, I think your activism is admirable. Patiotism and love of country don’t have to have anything to do with a sense of superiority, but simply about caring for one’s community and trying to make it better. We have to start somewhere to make the world a better place, and where we are is as good a place as any.

  5. Kiri Close says:

    Let’s just say my U.S. patriotism has been augmented with Obama running for president.

    That doesn’t, however, dismiss my anger of being a citizen of this country.

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