Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Am a Patriot

Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land


I am a patriot. If you’ve read my earliest posts here, you may be surprised to hear me say so. But it’s true. I was born in the United States and have lived here all my life, and I love my country. I have chosen a set of songs that I hope helps to show what I mean.

Capercaillie: Who Will Raise Their Voice?


I love the fact that I am free to express myself. In America, I can criticize my government and its policies, and be heard. This is how this country grows and changes. We discuss, and then we act. America is always a work in progress.

The written word does not have a tone of voice. So some readers might be tempted to think that this entire post is tongue-in-cheek. But I am completely serious. Patriotism is a word that has been coopted by people who can only see one way to love their country: their way. So this post is my attempt to reclaim the word patriotism for people who love this country in all different ways.

Some of my readers may not agree with the opinions I set forth here. There is a comment box, and you are free to say so. Your freedom of speech is every bit as important to me as mine. I would only ask that we have a discussion, and not a shouting match.

Peggy Seeger: I’m Gonna Be an Engineer


The United States is constantly working on granting equality to all of her people. Sometimes we as a nation slip backwards, and give back some of the important gains that we have made in this area. But the general direction is always towards more equality.

I live in a nation that was founded by slave holders, and I live in a time where we have our first black president. I am so proud of my countrymen for getting together last November and achieving this. I hope to soon see an America where gay people can openly serve in our military and legally marry.

Peggy Seeger wrote this song in the early 70s. I used to hear it on public radio whenever they mentioned feminism, (which was often in those days). Now the song sounds a bit dated. This represents progress.

Bruce Springstein and the Seeger Sessions Band: We Shall Overcome


I live in a country where the right to peaceably assemble and protest is enshrined in our Constitution. I have used this right to protest the Vietnam war, and hope to teach my children to exercise this right as well.

We Shall Overcome is a song that I first heard at those peace marches. Pete Seeger is the kind of patriot I admire, and he wrote it. Seeger has always sought to make this country a better place, by working to bring attention to injustice through his music. I have chosen Bruce Springstein’s version of the song, because admire how Springstein has carried on this work in the same way.

Billy Jonas: God is In


Likewise, our Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. I was raised as an atheist Jew, and I knew that no law could require me to change my beliefs, or participate in official rituals that were contrary to my beliefs. No matter what spiritual paths my children may be drawn to in their futures, their rights to those paths will be protected.

Mick Moloney and Eugene O‘Donnell: The Irish Maid


I am proud to live in a country that has welcomed victims of famine and oppression in times of greatest need. To me, the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty are just as important as the Declaration of Independence. My grandfather came here fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. In his own small way, he contributed to this country.

Immigrants have vastly enriched our country. Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donnell are fine examples. Both are Americans who have explored their Irish heritage, and shared it with any who cared to learn.

So, all of this is what I mean when I say that I am a patriot.


Lynchie from Aberdeen said...

Very good post and very good choice of songs. More power to your blogging elbow!

Cheers and have a Happy 4th of July.

Nicolas said...

Great post.

No, hawks don't have the monopoly of patriotism and i agree with you. It is possible to be a vigilant patriot.

We had the same kind of national debate here in France during the last presidential election. In my country patriotism is strongly associated with conservatism, and it's a bad thing I guess. But here things are a bit different : we're a smaller country, we have a history of wars with our neighboors, and "patriotism" can be seen as short-viewed nationalism. European identity is (I hope) sthg that's getting stronger and stronger.

Maybe that's why some French people have difficulties to admit that there are people in America who are patriots while being critical when needed. That's why, for instance, "Born in the USA" was misunderstood (everybody here thought Springsteen was pro-Reagan in 1984).

btw, great choice of songs