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Posts Tagged ‘Patriotism’

I know. Memorial Day is our day to remember those who sacrificed their lives in the service of our country. It is a noble thing to serve in the armed forces. Facing the hardship of battle is something worthy of recognition if not praise. I know this because my dad, after fleeing Germany in 1939, served as an American GI in Europe after the United States entered WW II. I remember his stories about the horrors of war, what it was like to fear for your life in the middle of a battle. So I mean no disrespect to those who have fallen in the service of our country if, on this Memorial Day, I remember some other things as well.

I remember that my dad, despite his service for this country in the army, did NOT want me to be drafted and go to Vietnam. In a conversation that shocked me, as I approached my 18th birthday, Dad told me there was a huge difference between the Vietnam War and WW II. He saw no purpose to risking my life in Vietnam. He preferred that I immigrate to Israel and serve in her army or even flee to Canada. He told me specifically, that if I was in danger of being drafted and chose to go to Canada, he would understand that choice. I remember feeling how grateful I felt that my choices never came to that.

I remember when your choice of movies was not a measure of your patriotism. I have not yet seen “American Sniper.” It does not particularly appeal to me, although I know I will watch it when it hits HBO or another similar channel. I was appalled by the conversations I saw on Facebook, implying that if you did not go to see this movie and support it for best picture, you were being unpatriotic. I understand that the movie is an interesting psychological study in the unraveling of a soldier forced to kill. I do not understand how choosing not to see it was grounds for criticism.

I remember when my patriotism was actually measured by my idealism, by how much I dreamed and worked to make this country better. I remember wearing a black armband on Moratorium Day to protest the Vietnam War. I remember my synagogue youth group joined with other Christian youth groups to raise money in order to buy and renovate a house to give to a poor family, as our means of protesting the practices of a slum lord in Allentown. I remember the first earth days, and feeling our country was making real progress when the first major anti-pollution bills passed congress.

I remember working and voting for Republican candidates for office in Pennsylvania as much as I worked for and voted for Democrats. I remember in college, working on Richard Schweiker’s senate campaign in 1974 and having breakfast with him the day before election day, after working a campaign stop with him. I remember when Republican votes were necessary to pass much of the civil rights legislation in the 1960’s and how Senator Everett Dirksen (Republican Senate minority leader) was critical in helping President Johnson pass that legislation. I remember the intellectual prowess of William F. Buckley Jr. (although I often disagreed with him) and the diversity in the Republican party that included a range of politicians ranging from Barry Goldwater to Nelson Rockefeller.

I remember a time when political correctness did not inhibit the range of acceptable ideas on a college campus. I remember vigorous discussions in college, from a wide range of speakers representing a huge diversity of perspectives. I remember when it would be unthinkable to ban a speaker from appearing on a college campus because they were too conservative, or did not conform to any prevailing “groupthink.” I remember when the point of being in college was to hear and consider the whole range of ideas and opinions, and then choose what you believe.

And I remember a time when political correctness was really just known as common courtesy. It was not polite or appropriate to use certain words to refer to certain ethnic groups. I remember a time there were no “word police” who chastised you every time you uttered a phrase that might offend some one. I remember a time when people were just less sensitive about being offended.

I remember when all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution were of equal importance, and not just the gun rights of the second amendment. I remember when the NRA was just an organization for hunters and sports shooters, stressing gun safety and not a lobbying organization for the gun manufacturing industry. I remember never even thinking that gun ownership was an issue – my dad had hunting rifles and taught me to shoot when I was young.

I remember when we all felt proud about our country’s scientific achievements. I remember listening and watching with baited breath to the Apollo 11 moon landing. I remember when Republicans actually accepted science as reality instead of dissing science to court the votes of Christians who believe the Bible is an actual description of our origins.

I remember when baseball was really our national pastime, when we did not wonder if the achievements of the players were due to drugs. I remember when pitchers pitched 300 innings a season, and the best ones routinely won 20 games. I remember how the Amazing Mets took the world by storm by winning the 1969 World Series.

I remember when Memorial Day was May 30 – my birthday. I remember the time before it was moved to be the 4th Monday of May in order to create better commercial opportunities. I was excited my birthday was a holiday.

Finally, I remember listening to my parents remember their younger years, and lament for the values of their youth. I remember thinking that I would not become my parents. But of course, I have.

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