Sunday, August 19, 2012

On pride and patriotism

I am asked often if I am proud to be an American. For years I, like many, would answer with a sharp certainty that I was indeed very proud to be an American. I suppose that's customary, provides a sense of belonging, defends us against some type of social or moral attack...or perhaps it's a trained response that we're just not thinking through when it's evoked. It would probably bring the exact same response no matter my heritage as long as I were asked if I was proud of it. One could ask as easily if I'm proud to be white, straight, middle-aged or even human and the question would make as much sense as the 'American' one. I was born in America. I am neither proud nor ashamed of that. If I were...I should add to it that anyone from any other place than America should feel some sort of shame, greif or inequality as a result of being born on that 'other' piece of ground. I am proud of a certain number of human beings for their actions or beliefs and some of them have been Americans. Many were not. America didn't exist when many of them were alive. The things which they have accomplished, overcome or put forth effort for are the elements of their being that cause that sensation that we frequently call pride. I don't mean pride in the sense of a fondness of our own excellence as it is frequently defined but the kind of pride we feel in our attachment to an excellence displayed by someone else which he hold in high regard. A welling up of proud feelings like that of a parent upon a childs acheivements I believe has no place in our fondness for circumstances that pre-empt our own existence or situations that arise without our consent to which we are exposed. What has anyone done to earn a sense of pride in an inherited wealth or an inherited body trait. By all these definitions pride becomes biggotry and we take pride in things that other people do not have for that reason alone. Perhaps it's more of a greed. I have been proud of many things I've accomplished and many things that happened by no result of my own efforts. I won't make that mistake again. If I'm going to pat myself on the back for anything it won't be where my mother gave birth to me. I'll go out and try to do something worth feeling good about. If by chance someone ever feels a sense of pride over their fondness for my efforts they may accidentally confuse it with a fondness for America...but make no mistake, I'm just another human who was born somewhere and lived until I died and did things that made my mother proud and other things that she pretended she never knew. Your life is the same, no matter how hard you try to find comfort in your preselected, superior genes. Your superior jeans. We're the same, you and I. Your mother is proud of you and she's not telling people about the ugly things you've done (or so we hope). jefferson fox