With the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, various news outlets talk about how patriotic so many Americans became after that day. They mention the numerous displays of the American flag, signing up for the military, and donating blood. I guess that that makes sense, since those things are traditionally associated with patriotism. To me, patriotism is something different.
In the American Revolution, Patriots were not the people who blindly followed the lead of others. They were the people who stood up to one of the most powerful governments in the world and said, “Enough is enough.” They were the people who dissented. They were willing to alienate themselves from members of their own families and social circus in order to make the country a better place.
We forget in this country that sometimes love for one’s country is best expressed in challenging the policies and the laws that exist in the country. We forget that the protesters and the pamphleteers were the people who changed the country so much throughout the years, and even gave it its start. Yes, we are an independent country because the military and militias (before the national military truly formed) fought to make it that way. We are also an independent country because non-military people chose to speak out against injustices. They are just as important in the history of the country as the people who fought in wars. They are the people who shaped our philosophies and our ways of life.
So, why is it that we continue to ignore the contribution of those people? Why is it that, after the terror attacks of 9/11, when people challenged policies of the Bush administration, people were called traitors or unpatriotic? It happened quite a bit. Any person who didn’t agree with George Bush got to find out quickly that there was no appreciation for dissent following 9/11. People like Natalie Maines, Sean Penn, and your average everyday liberal bloggers got hounded, with some threats being made against some dissenters. Why was voicing a different opinion unpatriotic? And why don’t we acknowledge that there was an almost “Stepford wife”-style expectation of American citizens?
We should acknowledge all patriots; and we shouldn’t gloss over the past 10 years, or any part of our history, to make it look like America is some shiny, happy place.