If most of my Portuguese relatives (instead of one or two) read this blog, I’d be in even more trouble than I am.
The one or two who read the blog get really upset at my America-Pride posts, and even more upset at the USAian short stories. (Shrugs.) So much the worse.
I do understand their taking offense, to an extent. After all I grew up Portuguese and that I love the US and rally to it seems like an insult to them.
It is not an insult, it is what I am, sort of an inner compulsion of the soul. If my kids should go to say Australia and write endless posts and stories about how much they love it, I’d hope to be able to only sulk a little bit.
But weirdly I think if my dad could read my blog (he doesn’t speak/read English) he would understand, precisely because he is a Portuguese patriot, while the family members getting burned are mostly tres internationale, tres chic, tres moderne, and think patriotism itself is something slightly gauche that belongs in the nineteenth century in a scent of mothballs and a cloud of kids named after kings.
So when I’m publicly patriotic, what I’m doing is worse than insisting on wearing pettycoats and ankle length skirts, which could at least be charmingly eccentric.
Because you see they know, because six generations have learned this now, that patriotism kills. This was the lesson they took from world war I and, because world war two dressed socialism in funny German outfits, it didn’t shake them. It never occurred to them that people go to war for many reasons, one of them being that they think they can win, which might or might not be fed by exaggerated pride in their country, but that no one has gone to war UNPROVOKED just because they love their country.
I can’t even imagine the mechanics of that “we love our homeland, it has beautiful fields, let’s go invade next door and kick their ass” WHAT?
What happens rather is that when a nation attacks for whatever reason, patriotism and national pride allow a nation to defend itself.
I was thinking about this because Julie Pascal (I THINK on facebook) made a comment about pride and bragging on your homeland being a good thing. It builds confidence and certainty, it gives you something to fight from. She says she’s not sure a land where its people don’t brag about it might be able to survive.
We used to teach the kids stories about their country and their ancestors (real, or at least theoretically so — more often — in Europe, and ideological in the US. We taught them patriotism by degrees.
Was the story about Washington and the cherry tree a lie? Perhaps so, but in the grand scheme of things does it matter? It taught them virtues we want associated with the country. Teach them not only what is admirable about our land, but what we want to be admirable about our land. If they believe men of their land are strong and true and lay down their lives for the weak, it will help them to be so. Virtue is not easy, and taking a good run up to it, and feeling we naturally should do it, helps.
In the same way courage is hard, and you can’t ask people to lay down their lives for something they’ve been taught to despise.
Patriotism never caused wars. (Not even German Patriotism. Their desire for a warm water port and markets for their wears did.) Patriotism is the white blood cells of the culture, the defensive mechanism of the territory.
Imagine — this is easy for me, since I’m a guest in someone else’s house right now — that you live in a really nice house. It cost you a lot of money. It took you years to work up to buying it, and it is the house you always dreamed of. You clean it every day, polish the woodwork, clean the windows.
Now imagine your no-good cousin and his five ill-taught brats come to visit. Those kids are trumping up and down your polished hardwood floors in steel-toed boots. Your cousin is sleeping on your leather sofa, slopping beer onto it. Your no good cousin-in-law has burned something indescribable on the stove.
You’re gonna get mad. You’re gonna ask them to shape up or ship out.
Now imagine you’re living in a tar paper shack. It’s objectively a lot more fragile than your big dream house. But you don’t like it, don’t want to live there, and don’t think it’s a big deal when the kids are poking holes in the walls, and your no-good cousin is spilling beer on your third hand sofa. So you let them. And come winter you’re going to be mighty cold int hat tar paper shack with the holes in the wall..
Or to make the comparison fairer, take the home we just bought. It’s a suburban house. In fact, it’s a d*mn nice suburban house, rather fortunate about its location. Because we took 25 years working up to it, starting with a starter house of 800 sq feet which we couldn’t sell at the price we bought it.
Sure our new house needs a bit of work. Sure, in the fullness of time we’ll change the counters to granite, we’ll put wood on the floor instead of the rather ratty carpets on it now, we’ll give it a good painting.
BUT as it is right now it is the best d*mn house we’ve ever owned. (We didn’t live in Victorians because we wanted to, but because they were usually cheap enough/in bad shape enough when we bought them that we could afford them and the neighborhood was better than the house. This also means after years of fixing and improving we sold them at a nice profit, allowing us to work up the scale.)
Anyway, imagine instead of making our slow way up, we had made our way precipitously down. Suppose we’d lost a house twice the size and fixed up top of the line and up to the minute.
Then take the same no-good-cousin in law on the wrong side of the blanket as visitor. You can see how, right now, we’d defend our place tooth and nail, right? If it were our “make do” and “any place to crash” house? Not so much.
Same with countries. If you think your country is the best thing since sliced bread, and that your culture is the best thing that ever happened to mankind, you’ll defend it. You’ll fight for it. Long before time comes to fight physically, you’ll have taught any visitor or anyone moving in that your place is something special and that, being so privileged as to be admitted to it, they should be on their best behavior so they can have their kids live in that special place too.
The problem with this war we’re fighting, this attrition and invasion offensive is that the perfect defense for it is the nineteenth century kind of patriotism. That same patriotism our upper classes have spent a century removing, under the amiable impression they were preventing war.
If France and Germany and yeah, us too, still believed that their country, in itself, was a value, something to care for, something to be proud of, we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in. Terrorists would know that people who love their country would respond to outrages with overwhelming force. Terrorists might never have started because those of them in the west would have imbibed the message of how wonderful the west was, and they’d have mental tools to shut down the crazy uncle at the back of their head, telling them that their birth-land was best and that their birth religion gives them dominion over every other human.
So I’m sorry if it offends the delicate sentiments (lilac-scented feelings)of any citizen of a lesser country reading this, but the US at least still has vestiges of its white blood cells. We still fought back when attacked. Meanwhile the Europeans wring their hands and wish that something would happen to make these nasty people stop attacking them. Not that they mean to imply that the nasty people are any nastier then them, of course, or that they shouldn’t be attacked, but really….
What they need to do instead is take a hint, and start bragging on their country and loving it, just like we do love ours. And we too need to start pouring on the bragging, even more than what we feel (if that is possible) to counter decades of public school blame-America-first teachers. We need to walk really proud, and talk really loud again. We need to talk about how we’re faster than a jackrabbit, and braver than a mountain lion, how our cowboy boots are seven league boots, and how when an American spits in the ocean it causes a tsunami.
We need to teach the kids to love their homeland. And to stop frigging apologizing. In the history of man, there is no nation who ever had nothing to apologize for, but ours has less than most. And even those lands — I’m looking at you Germany — who have a lot to apologize for, have more good than evil in their ancestry. Start honing the good by praising it and teaching it, and make that evil a foot note.
Walk real proud, talk real loud again.
Or die, and leave the world to nations mired in darkness and evil who never yet apologize for anything and who brag of their hatred for you, when they have nothing else to brag on.
It’s that simple.
And to my little adopted sister, Kate Paulk: if ever there was a time I didn’t want to be out of the country, and I wanted to be there to support you, it was today. But since I can’t, have a good naturalization ceremony and welcome home to this fractious family that is the best thing to ever happen to G-d’s green land.
Happy naturalization day. We’ll throw you a shindig later.