In case you haven't guessed it by now, I'm not what you would call a patriot. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.
Not one to commit my undying loyalty to any one group, I have lived most of my life on the fringes of this group or that group and have felt like Colin Wilson's consummate "outsider" ever since I have been conscious of myself.
It all started in middle school with the dreaded "Pledge of Allegiance." It just so happened that the daily chanting of it fell during my PE class. The other students unfailingly did what was expected of them: They stopped changing long enough to pay their respects to this country by placing their right hands over their left breasts and reciting the words I refuse to utter now just as I refused to utter then. The PE teacher took notice of my apparent disdain and disrespect and commanded me to do as the others did. Again, I refused. She threatened to have a parent/teacher conference, and chastised me in front of the group. I'm not sure how it all ended, but I'm guessing that I paused during "The Pledge," and, hand on heart, thought of other things while the others did their patriotic duty.
Much to my shock and horror, my days of being expected to say these words I didn't mean didn't end with high school. At city council meetings during my city government reporting days in South Georgia, not only was "The Pledge" recited but there was also a prayer - A PRAYER - given at every meeting. Not wanting to appear overly adversarial (though, indeed I was), I stood for the prayer but kept my eyes open, and put my hand on my heart while facing in the general direction of the flag. But, still, I refused to say the words.
I pledge allegiance
To the flag
Of the United States of America...
(If I say these words, I'm telling a lie.)
...And to the republic
For which it stands
With liberty and justice for all.
Liberty and justice for all? I know that's a crock. How can people say there's liberty and justice for all and feel good about it? And mean it? Meanwhile, minor drug offenders rot in prisons while rapists and murderers either go free or serve lesser sentences. Meanwhile, a frighteningly large percentage of the population is racist, sexist, classist and any other -ist you can imagine. Meanwhile, women are still looked at and treated as property by men (and other WOMEN!) on the farms...in the boardrooms...in the factories...in the bedrooms. Meanwhile, children are beaten and starved and twisted by their demonic parents. Meanwhile, poor people languish without adequate food, shelter or education. Meanwhile, the literacy rate in this country is abysmal. Meanwhile, the rich get richer on the backs of the poor while we spend billions of dollars to go kill "enemies" that don't exist.
I'm not saying all this to make you, dear reader, think I don't care about this country. In fact, I am a deeply concerned citizen who cares passionately about what goes on here - and what doesn't. I am patriotic - just not in the close-my-eyes-don't-ask-any-questions-unfailingly-trust-whatever-anyone-in-power-has-to-say-to-me kind of way. I question the status quo. I object to that which I disagree. I speak my mind. I am a dissenter. All in a feeble attempt to get others to question their own views and motivations and to get them thinking about what they stand for, who they are and what it takes to build a cohesive society filled with liberty and justice for all.
Believe it or not, I haven't always been this way. I grew up the daughter of middle class bankers who (still) tow the line and now vote Republican. Along the way, I bent and broke. I fell apart and rebuilt myself several times. I morphed. Outward appearances shifted. My taste in music broadened. My interests expanded. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to find the truth that could never be found within the confines of my parent's home. The evening news after dinner. Three hours of sitcoms. Ice cream at nine. Then bed. Hooters on Friday nights; golf on Sundays. I grew up in that world and vowed never to make it mine.
I have since moved from one coast to the other and back again. Along the way, I have seen some amazing places and met some amazing people who are doing amazing things for themselves and others. And with an open mind and no firm allegiances to anything except my core set of values and beliefs - those that will never change - I continue to evolve.