Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Civics Lessons: Our Flag Was Still There

John McCutcheon: Our Flag Was Still There


When I first heard the word “patriotism”, I thought it was a negative emotion. I saw bumper stickers displaying the American flag alongside the words “America, love it or leave it” and recognized the anger and hostility to dissent that were being displayed. “Patriots”, I learned from this, were intolerant people who demanded that those who did not think as they did deserved to be denied their rights as Americans.

But this, of course is not what patriotism truly means. We live in a country which was founded as the result of a revolution; without dissent, the United States could not exist. The founding fathers wrote into the bill of rights that every American should continually question the actions of our government, and speak out freely when those actions are wrong. Protesting against the Vietnam War, my first act of dissent, was also my first act of patriotism, although I did not make that connection until years later.

Nowadays, there are still many people who do not understand what being a patriot in America truly means. In our political campaigns, whether a candidate wears a flag pin in their lapel can be seen as more important than their dreams of how to lead our country. We still have leaders who try to say that questioning their decisions is somehow “unpatriotic”.

“Our Flag Was Still There” was inspired by an essay by author Barbara Kingsolver, who also collaborated with John McCutcheon on the lyrics. I’m glad there are people like this around to remind us all of the true meaning of patriotism.

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