About That “Patriotism” Survey . . . .

Earlier this week, on the eve of the Fourth of July, Gallup released a poll that addressed how Americans feel about their country.  The provocative lead to the Gallup story, which produced a lot of equally provocative headlines around the country, was as follows:

“This Fourth of July marks a low point in U.S. patriotism. For the first time in Gallup’s 18-year history asking U.S. adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than a majority say they are “extremely proud.” Currently, 47% describe themselves this way, down from 51% in 2017 and well below the peak of 70% in 2003.”

83240-fullNot surprisingly, in view of the current occupant of the White House, the percentage of Democrats and liberals who describe themselves as “extremely proud” of being an American has declined.  But note that the 47% figure addresses only those people who describe themselves as at the highest pride level available on the survey.  The vast majority of the respondents still expressed significant pride in their country, with 25% saying they are “very proud” and 16% who are “moderately proud.”  That adds up to close to 90 percent of the respondents.

The first paragraph of the Gallup release also makes, in my view, a significant error in equating “extreme pride” with “patriotism.”  In my view, patriotism means you love and care about your country, not that you are blind to its issues;  patriotism is not “my country, right or wrong.”  You can be devoted to and supportive of your country without feeling “extremely proud” that you are an American at a particular point in time.  Changes in “extreme pride” say a lot more about how Americans are feeling about the course the country is on than they do about how Americans feel, deep down, about their country, its history, its freedoms, and its opportunities.

I’d be willing to be that everyone who is vigorously opposing the various initiatives of the Trump Administration is doing so because they are convinced that opposing such initiatives is the way to make America an even better place to live.  They may not be “extremely proud” of their country right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t patriotic.

For The Love Of Eggs

There’s an egg shortage in America!  As Richard reported in an article in the San Antonio Express-News a few days ago, the large Texas supermarket chain H-E-B is limiting customers to three cartons of eggs to deal with a shortage caused by the avian flu.  Yesterday the Washington Post carried an article with the scary headline “Egg rationing in America has officially begun.”

Egg rationing?  Yikes!  Chicken Little might say the sky is falling!

But really, can we call limiting consumers to three cartons of eggs “rationing”?  Technically, it’s an accurate use of the word, because H-E-B is limiting the quantity people can purchase.  But you tend to associate rationing with much more stringent limits on supply — like getting one pair of shoes for the entirety of World War II.  Telling people they can only buy 36 eggs during one visit to the grocery store doesn’t really seem impose limits that will affect many people.  Other than kids intent on mischief on a Friday night and the members of the Duggar clan, how many people buy more than 36 eggs at one time, anyway?

I like eggs.  When you think about it, they’re one of the more versatile foods we consume.  They’re great on their own — I like mine over easy or scrambled — but they’re also essential for baking.  And they are a great source of protein.

But I’m a patriotic guy who wants to do what is best for the U.S. of A.  If we’re strapped for eggs, I want to help.  I’m willing to sacrifice.  So I hereby agree that I will voluntarily limit my purchases to less than 36 eggs until this “temporary egg shortage” is over.  And because egg prices are already skyrocketing because the invisible hand is reacting to the shortage, my patriotic gesture incidentally will probably save me a few bucks, too.

Winning, And Saluting Our Soldiers

Yesterday the Ohio State Buckeyes manhandled the Fighting Illini, 52-22, in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Ohio State ran the ball at will, completed long pass plays, and throttled the Illinois offense as they moved to 10-0.

It also was a good example of why attending a game is a different experience than watching it on TV.  Before the game, at halftime, and during all those timeouts when TV viewers are forced to watch commercials about cars and beer, Ohio Stadium was saluting our military.

When timeouts came, recorded greetings from Buckeyes serving abroad were played on the big scoreboard, and students in the ROTC were introduced down on the field.  Before the game military members unfurled a huge flag as The Best Damn Band In The Land played the National Anthem, and then two fighter jets screamed by overhead.  And at halftime, TBDBITL played a series of songs from military movies while the band members marched into patriotic shapes and Old Glory was displayed again, at the center of a star.

TBDBITL is always wonderful, and yesterday’s show and general salute to the members of our military, presented just a few days before Veterans’ Day, was well timed for another reason — at the end of a long and sometimes bitter presidential campaign, it was nice to see something that everyone in attendance, regardless of party affiliation, could cheer wholeheartedly.

Happy Fourth Of July!

Amidst the hot dogs, and fireworks, and beer, and heat, let’s all take a moment to really feel that proud patriotic surge as we celebrate our freedoms and our independence — and let’s also remember that, although we may disagree on some things, Americans remain Americans, and what unites us far outweighs what divides us.

Happy Fourth of July!

Simply Flawless

With the death of Whitney Houston most will recall her singing of the song “I Will Always Love You” from the movie The Bodyguard. For me I will always remember her passionate singing of the Star Spangled Banner before Super Bowl Twenty Five.

Just ten days prior to the Super Bowl a coalition force made up of thirty four nations began to wage a war code named Operation Desert Storm against Iraq who had invaded their neighbor Kuwait.

The video below is truly a show of patriotism at it’s finest with Ms Houston’s stirring version of the song making her the only artist to turn the National Anthem into a hit single when it reached number 20 on the Billboard Top 100. The single was also reissued shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center when the song hit number 6 on the charts.

In Defense Of Patriotism

Samuel Johnson famously observed that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” and in recent years it has been increasingly common for some people to decry patriotism as mindless, antiquated, and a roadblock to progress toward the accomplishment of a “one world” community. As we come to the close of the Independence Day weekend, and the flags and bunting are stowed away, I want to present a brief defense of patriotism — which I consider to be a salutary, and positive, feeling.

I think some of the disdain for patriotism stems from the fact that it is an emotion that arises from below the level of rational thought — an informed emotion, perhaps, but an emotion nevertheless. Patriotic symbols are uniquely powerful devices. The fluttering Stars and Stripes, the bald eagle, John Phillips Souza marches, and other iconic objects and sounds are capable of stirring deep feelings in ways that cut across religious, racial, ethnic, and class lines. The gut-level impact of such potent imagery makes it possible for politicians to gin up, and then exploit, overzealous patriotism.

The fact that patriotism can be exploited, however, should not detract from its many positive attributes. In a diverse land of immigrants like the United States, patriotism is one of the strong, common threads that bind our people together. Our backgrounds may be different, but we can be united in our love of our country, its history, and its core values. One of the reasons most Americans are patriotic is that they believe, correctly, that we have much to be patriotic about. Our pride in our country is not derived from conquest, but from the abstract concepts of freedom, and democracy, and equality that America has helped to spread and promote throughout the world. In America, therefore, patriotism also has an aspirational component. Patriotic citizens are more likely to work to make America even better than it is, by volunteering to serve their country in some capacity, by voting, by being active in their communities, or in countless other ways. When times are tough, patriotism can lead people to engage in collective sacrifice and mutual support.

Any emotion that can cause self-absorbed, and often isolated, modern Americans to lay aside, however briefly, their focus on themselves and instead to view themselves are part of the greater American community — where we are not Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, or southerners or yankees — is a good thing. The Fourth of July is an important holiday precisely because it is a patriotic holiday, and it is essential that, every so often, Americans stand in a crowd, see the flag, listen to The Star-Spangled Banner and Stars and Stripes Forever, and together experience the lump in the throat and surge of proud patriotic feeling.

Memorial Day

When I was a kid, signs of military service were everywhere. Most of the Dads in our neighborhoods had served in World War II, or Korea, or in the peacetime military. I remember my junior high school principal, Mr. Glick, had lost part of a finger during World War II, and my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Dalton, had returned from service overseas with an impressive collection of very cool German war souvenirs and would occasionally bring them to class and share them with we impressionable fifth-grade boys. All of this was just an everyday part of the world we lived in. This article on “Army buddies” makes that point about life in America in the 1960s, and also reflects a bit on what was lost when the draft and national service were no longer mandatory.

One of my first jobs was for Congressman Chalmers P. Wylie, a strapping but gentle man who had served in Europe during World War II and who received the Silver Star for heroism. As a young First Lieutenant, he rescued two members of his unit who were grievously injured when they inadvertently wandered into a minefield. How? Without a moment’s hesitation he went in after them, slung one onto one shoulder and one onto the other, and walked out of the minefield. (I’ve linked to his Silver Star citation.) You couldn’t help but be impressed by those acts, but Mr. Wylie was never boastful about his service. One of the most memorable conversations I have ever had occurred late one night, when Mr. Wylie and I were working on answering constituent mail. We got to talking about President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese. Mr. Wylie mentioned that, after the war in Europe had ended, he and his unit had been selected to be part of the force to invade Japan and had been training for that task when the first bomb was dropped. There was no doubt in his mind that President Truman had made the right decision — because it was a decision that ensured that he and his friends and thousands of other American soldiers would survive the war. I thought of Mr. Wylie when I read this piece by Peggy Noonan, and I think of that conversation whenever I hear an academic second-guess the decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Finally, there was Kish’s Dad, Bill Kishman, who also served in World War II. His story was not an unusual one. He was born on a farm and grew up in a small town, never venturing very far from home. When the war came he enlisted and was shipped overseas to serve in Europe, as a driver. He never talked much about his service, either, but it was obvious that military service had touched him. When the war ended he returned home, went back to his farm, got married and raised a family. He was one of the finest people I ever met, and we have a neat photo of him, lined up in the courtyard of Army headquarters in some European town, preparing to receive a medal. World War II not only changed him, it also changed our country in a number of different ways.

We are now blessed in America with a terrific professional military that is the envy of every country on the planet. I salute Mr. Wylie and Mr. Kishman for their voluntary service and patriotism. I also want to thank all veterans and active members of our armed forces, at home and abroad, for their service and sacrifice. Happy Memorial Day to you all!