Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Patriot Games

When I was in elementary school, I loved going to one of my good friend’s house because his parents always allowed us to eat whatever we wanted. His mom ordered pizza for dinner all the time. Their fridge was always fully stocked with soda and their cabinets were filled with candy. They even made their own beef jerky. On the other side of the coin, my parents wouldn’t allow us to have sugar cereal and my mom would usually cook meals, which were delicious, but always included more vegetables than just the olives and green peppers you might find on a large pie from Pizza Hut. As a 10-year old I thought it was great that my friend was allowed to eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Until recently when he wrote me a message on Facebook saying “hello” and I realized that my once thin friend was now a pudgy round ball. I believe that the story of my friend’s family is representative of the United States as a whole, not only in the way we eat, but in every facet of the way we live. Americans are always bragging that our country is the “land of the free,” and while freedom and the ability to do as we choose is a right we should never take for granted, constantly abusing our liberties to make the wrong choices nullifies the greatness of having them at all. Sure it’s great to have so many liberties, but if all we do is abuse them, do we still deserve them?
Americans put the "dumb" in Freedom
America is like the star football quarterback in a small town who ends up doing nothing with the rest of his life and can always be heard reminiscing about the old days when he ruled the world. Sure we fought off the British to take control of our land (well Native Americans’ land but who’s counting?), and we kicked ass in World War II, and we stared down the Russians in the Cold War, not to mention taking it to them in the Miracle on Ice. We created Disneyland, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s. We landed on the moon, designed the A-Bomb, and came out with the iPhone. Beat that, Asians! From this great land came Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Who cares if all the guys who shot them were from here, too?) It’s undeniable that the US of A has plenty of past achievements to brag about. The problem is that pesky little word: “past.” High school is over. We were once carried on the shoulders of our allies at the 50-yard line holding the championship trophy above our beautiful blonde head. But now we’re retired (aka jobless), staring at our rusty trophy, living off of past accomplishments rather than working on creating new ones.

This is America
When the US women’s soccer team recently defeated Brazil in dramatic fashion, many of us felt a wave of patriotic emotion-- odd how it usually takes a sports moment or a national tragedy to bring all of us together. After the game many players and fans were saying things like, “This is what America is about!” and “Today we showed the world what Americans stand for!” Look, I love this country very much and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world (at least not for more than a couple years, anyway). But comments like these are delusional. If they had said, “This is what America should be about!” or “Today we showed the world what Americans want to stand for!” then maybe I could get on the same page.

American's always pull together when
a set of twin towers are involved.
I’m not saying we all need to get into politics or fight in the military or donate all of our money to charity in order to be a viable American. All I’m saying is we need to look at our Constitution and the rights given to us therein and wonder how we can honor such a great document with our actions, rather than simply manipulating it to indulge in ridiculous behavior. For instance, I love free speech. It gives me the right to write this very blog and call people assholes if I want to. (Yeah, I’m talking to YOU, Guy-Who-Didn’t-Pull-Up-Far-Enough-And-Made-Me-Miss-The-Left-Turn-Light.) But it also gives the Westboro Baptist Church the right to protest military funerals with signs that read “God Hates Fags.” And I get that people want the right to own guns in order to hunt or protect themselves from intruders, but then people go out and shoot each other for no good reason. So while we Americans should be proud that we give ourselves these freedoms, we should be ashamed with what we do with them. We should stop patting ourselves on the back for being free, and start focusing on being decent.

Now I’m not advocating that the U.S. government put us in some “Big Brother” state and take away all of our freedoms, but at the same time when Sarah Palin criticizes the First Lady as some Fascist extremist for advocating a healthier diet for kids, I think that things have gone a little too far. When Palin brought a batch of cookies to a school in order to protest a proposed governmental restriction on the amount of sugar students could consume at school parties, she wasn’t just saying “Don’t let government tell you what to do,” she was saying “Don’t let government tell you what to do even if their advice is good for you.” It’s moronic ideas such as this one that have created such hatred for a government that is often times trying to help the citizens who are fighting it so intensely.

The real Cookie Monster
I would love to trust my fellow Americans to do the right thing with their freedoms, but most of our adult citizens usually act like children and need to be treated as such. The government is by no means perfect, but if we didn’t have such distrust for the leaders of the country we claim to love so much, maybe we would be open to some of their parenting once in a while and we could all improve together. If we all, myself included, acted like our mothers were watching over our shoulders with everything we did, maybe we would finally start to make some better decisions.

Supporting an American baseball team,
an English Band, at a Spanish Bar...
Taking the best from all of our cultures.
And when the American government is not in the right, would it be so wrong for us to look elsewhere for guidance? I know it can sound snooty when people talk about their travels, but the truth remains that the majority of those who pump up the United States as “the Greatest Country on earth” have never been to any other country. It’s like declaring Del Taco the best Mexican Food without even trying Chipotle. While overall our country may have many of the “best” foundations and ideals, many other countries have admirable qualities that Americans, if we weren’t so stubborn and proud, would be better off trying to emulate.

I love the patriotism our country exudes after a big sports win, a horrific tragedy, or some other moment that makes us all come together. However, I can’t help but view this “patriotism” as a temporary emotion rather than a permanent state of mind. True patriotism exists every day and is embodied by a constant desire and effort to make this country a better place, not simply by reliving the glory days of her past, but by trying to improve her future. It’s nice to talk about the Championships we won many years ago. We should hang those banners. We should honor our heroes and remember our victories. But at some point, isn’t it time to focus on next season?


  1. best blog yet! thanks todd!!!

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