Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My own personal Patriot Act



Thanks to those who left comments on my previous entry about Goshen College. A quick synopsis: a conservative talk radio host, Mike Gallagher, criticized Goshen College (one of our local colleges) and accused them of lacking patriotism for not playing the national anthem at sporting events, and wondered why they are accepting federal student aid. There were some questions, and I would like to address this a little further. I've been thinking, you see. (RUN!)

In his Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce had this to say about patriotism: "Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first." If you recall my commentary on Bierce in the past, you'll remember that Ambrose could be a little...harsh. However, unbridled patriotism results in extreme nationalism and jingoism, and a feeling of "my country right or wrong."

I can't go as far as Bierce, and believe me, I love our country and believe I am fortunate to live here. But I do wonder at some of the concerns in our country about "lack of patriotism." First of all, patriotism is not a concrete entity with a set definition; it is a concept, a feeling that one harbors for one's country. To provide what I think is a fair example, it is similar to faith: it cannot be held in the hand, but it is an idea that is real to many. Outward manifestations of patriotism, such as flying the flag or singing patriotic songs, are symbols of that feeling, not requirements or evidence that someone is displaying appropriate enthusiasm.

Because patriotism is an ideological concept, the government cannot legislate patriotism--OR faith. It is a feeling that is unique to the individual, and there are no guidelines for what makes a "good patriot," any more than the government gets to decide who is a good Christian, or a good Jew, or anyone of any other religion. Who would make those guidelines? What would those guidelines entail? If the guidelines were not followed, what would be the punishment? There is no legislation stating that in order to be patriotic, certain laws must be followed and certain songs must be sung, or that certain behavior must be exhibited. There is also no cause to question someone's (or some college's) patriotism because they choose not to play the national anthem. That is their choice, and for whatever reason they have made that choice, their decision must be respected. No reason is necessary or must be given. The government cannot regulate or legislate ideas. We're edging dangerously close to 1984 territory there.

Federal student aid is not predicated upon whether or not a college falls in line with some nebulous definition of patriotism, let alone the definition of some jackbooted talk radio host. Goshen College is not a church, it is a college. It is not run by the Mennonite church, it was founded by people of that faith, much the way Cornell and Johns Hopkins were founded by Quakers, Liberty University was founded by Baptists, and Notre Dame (and many other universities) was founded by Catholics. Any such college or university, and the students who attend, is eligible for federal aid.

Just as we all make our own decisions regarding faith, Goshen College has made the decision to not play the national anthem during their athletic events. I don't question why (although it seems to be based upon the pacifist nature of the founders of the college), and the reason is not important. It is their decision to make, not mine, not our government's, and certainly not Mike Gallagher's. I stand by my statement that Gallagher was way out of line in his remarks against the college, and if any Goshen College students or faculty members happen to read this, I say, "GO MAPLE LEAFS!"

17 comments:

  1. My that is a mouthful from a little lady like you *winks* and well said! Too many people tend to push their beliefs and opinions to extreme. I wasn't aware student aid was dependent on your race, religion or belief in our country...that's right it's not! Kudo's to you for pointing this out. (Hugs)Indigo

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  2. I guess I'm a patriot. I cannot see why anyone wouldn't be proud to live in this great land of opportunity for all. 'On Ya'-ma

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  3. I must say I'm very thankful for the land that I live in, I'm proud to be an Amercan!

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  4. Very well said. You should send that as a letter to the editor of the paper sthat published the article. I think a lot of people would appreciate reading it. Thinking and spouting rhetoric that seems to require specific manifestations of patriotism (or someone's belief of what manifests patriotism) smacks very much of Hitler's Germany or Mao's China, or Hirohito's Japan, doesn't it? Being happy to live in this country and being proud to live in this country doesn't mean each of us has to show it in the same way, for whatever reason. Actually, following the laws of the land, being a good citizen and neighbor, and paying our share of taxes are pretty good ways to show that you appreciate living in this country. Anything else should be up to the individual and if an individual is doing those three things, then no one else should question their patriotism at all.

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  5. The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for. -Laurence J. Peter, educator and author (1919-1990)

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  6. You already know how I feel :o) Singing before a sporting event does not good American make.

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  7. I say, "GO BETH!" I agree with Lori, you should send this post to the newspaper as an op ed piece. This is "good writing," my friend, very well done.

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  8. Sure, well and good. But from my recollection of your commments section, the question was the motives behind their action, independent of an assesment of 'patriotism'. I think it does make a difference. If they are doing it just to be edgy - I'd guess not the case here ;) - it's certainly different, in the hearts and minds of most folk, than if they do so out of good and noble intent. And again, is it out of religious seperation of church/state? Is it an objection to the wartime lyrics of the anthem? Is it a contemporary protest of our policies and our administration? It does matter, and paints the offending passage as either a)an understandable if harsh reaction to an offense to his belifs b) a kukoo problem with the idea of church/state or c) just a way to sell papers/airtime, whatever.

    There is no tethical or legal way to cut off aid for colleges that openly mock the country that hosts them, and I reluctantly agree with the necessity of that; but I would think it highly suspect if on one hand a college (not this one) would say 'the US sucks! Washington sucks! All Americans suck! Capitalist pigs!' and then with the next breath hold out their hands for government aid.

    Dan

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  9. In my dictionary, a respected one, a definition of a patriot is one who stands up for his country, even against its government, if necessary. The Patriots Act was a stupid title for a lot of unpatriotic actib=vities and made fools out of alot of people, perhaps Mr Gallagher is one of them. D

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  10. Speaking as a non-patriot, I have to side with the College. So long as it's doing the job it was designed for why shouldn't it be funded? What difference does it make whether they play a tune first?

    B. x

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  11. This really would make a great column or letter for the local newspaper. Heck, send it to the Goshen News and The Elkhart Truth, and Gallagher too!
    Great rant!

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  12. i think that some people here on earth have way too much time on their hands and need to quit dipping their noses in others business.....this dude had no real connection to this college? If not, why then go on and on about anything about that college if it does not pertain to him? I get sick and tired of talking heads who seem to talk just as much out of their ass.

    XO

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  13. Very good articulation of your thoughts. I agree with you and your perspective, envious that I couldn't 'say it' as well as you have.

    Uh, I thought the Maple Leafs played in Toronto!

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  14. oh we get the same thing here beth. ho well. whatever it takes to sell papers/ get listeners huh?? take care love mort xx

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  15. Go get this published. It is time.

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  16. Very good post. I think this country has more serious issues at hand than what song is being played at a athletic event.
    That is the least of my worries.

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