The other week I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and I heard a very sad call-in from a 60-year-old southern gentleman. He was talking about loss of faith in the Republican party, in the judicial system, in the military—all these institutions that as conservative Americans we would love to throw our support behind. He talked about current and possible future erosion of liberties like speech and gun ownership. What was there left for him to believe in and defend as a patriotic American? Rush had no pat answers. All he could do was empathize.
By coincidence, I was listening in on the same day SCOTUS upheld Obamacare 6-3. Once again, the allegedly conservative Justice Roberts co-authored the majority opinion. (It’s enough to make one wonder if someone has incriminating photos of the guy, but that’s neither here nor there.) Meanwhile, Justice Scalia added yet another gem to a long line of eloquent dissents. Read a few choice quotes here. “Interpretive jiggery-pokery,” indeed. And of course, the day after that, SCOTUS miraculously “found” the “right” to redefine marriage in our Constitution by a 5-4 majority. Kennedy wrote this opinion, in a style “as pretentious as its content was egotistic.” (Scalia again. How I love that guy).
In these times, the southern gentleman’s question is a fair one. When even the most conservative justices in our highest court can’t always agree on a matter of basic interpretive integrity, where do we place our hope? What does it even mean anymore to say “God bless America”?
Patriotism could be interpreted as pride in one’s government. But I don’t think I need to explain all the reasons why the Obama administration fails to make the patriotic heart swell with pride. As just one example among many, look at how they’ve discriminated against immigrants based on religion and family values. In a recent embarrassment, an Iraqi nun coming with a delegation to testify before Congress about the horrors of ISIS nearly didn’t receive a visa. It was only granted by the State Department after some arm-twisting. An older case is our denial of asylum to the German Romeike family, even though the German government was threatening to take their children away for homeschooling them (read more here). Fantastic work, Obama and Co. So much for being a shining city on a hill, I guess.
Patriotism is often bound up with being pro-military. What could be more patriotic than proudly serving as a soldier for your country in a time of war? But as the gentleman said, the military has been corrupted along with everything else. Women and homosexuals are allowed to serve in combat. Atheistic superior officers bully soldiers of lower rank who express religious or political opinions that are out of step with leftism. Soldiers are stripped of their right to free speech. And military strategists have repeatedly gotten military men tangled in hopelessly messy situations with no clear exit plan. As I’ve said before, I respect the conviction of any young Christian man who feels called to the military, but if he asked my advice, I think there’s a compelling case for not joining. The decadence, corruption, and bad management can be truly soul-crushing.
Patriotism could mean a pride that our courts stand for what is truly right and just, upholding the integrity of our founding documents. But last month’s rulings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the blatant flouting of the Constitution’s meaning that’s been going on in SCOTUS for decades.
Patriotism could mean having faith in America’s executive systems, including local police departments. But how can we maintain that faith when the police departments are also running roughshod over people’s constitutional rights, sometimes even outright stealing their property?
Patriotism could mean having faith that there’s at least one political party we can throw our weight behind, one group of people who really “gets it” and will do what it takes to make this country great. But the Republican party has distanced itself more and more from conservatives who go against the grain of popular opinion on hot-button moral issues. It’s thrown its own candidates under the bus if they make even one mildly careless comment that gets leftist harpies in an uproar. And it’s repeatedly shown itself unwilling to provide meaningful push-back when Democrats unroll outrageously damaging policy changes, like integrating women into the military or ramming Obamacare down our throats.
So whatever meaning patriotism still has for us today, we’ll have to look elsewhere to find it. But I do not propose that the word is devoid of meaning. I merely propose that we begin to think about it differently.
When I think of “America,” I for one don’t think about who happens to be sitting in the president’s chair, or wearing a black robe, or writing legislative bills. I don’t even necessarily think about America’s military or military campaigns (though some, like World War II, were so unequivocally right, necessary, and successful that it does seem natural to connect them with patriotism). I think of the American people. I think of the butchers, bakers, farmers, and homemakers. I think of the old curmudgeon clinging stubbornly to his guns and his Bible. I think of the young entrepreneur who launches a small business on a lot of hard work, a little faith, and a dream that refuses to slink away and die. I think of the Texas boys who mowed an old lady’s lawn after hearing she was going to be arrested for letting her grass grow too high (score 1 for Texas boys, score 0 for our petty nanny state). I think of the veteran who cut down an American flag and took it home with him when a Mexican business-owner broke the law by flying it under the Mexican flag. I think of the family with six kids, all of whom get up at an ungodly hour of the morning without being told because they know they have to do their part to tend the land and the livestock.
I think of the land. You know, the amber waves of grain? They’re still out there, people! Ditto for the purple mountains’ majesty.
America is made up of Americans. Our liberties may be infringed upon, our constitution may be flouted by the buffoons in black, but damn it, if you’ll pardon my language, America is not going anywhere, because we the people are not going anywhere, and we the people are America.
So can we still be patriotic? Heck yeah. The flag will fly as long as there are men men enough to fly it.
So fly that thing.
Happy 4th, everybody.