In my lifetime I have encountered numerous Americans – some from the left and some from the right and many that are somewhere in between -that truly believe that various forms of patriotic manifestations are immutable and uncompromising. Many of these also believe that patriotism and its various manifestations should be coerced on to the unwilling.
I dissent, as is my right, from this opinion.
To force someone to Pledge an Allegiance to a flag, a nation, an empire, a supernatural entity, a republic, a politician, a religion is in an unto itself unbecoming of what the entire point of American democracy is.
So we must ask ourselves what is the point of the American who is shipped of to distant lands to fight and die for a country , for a flag , for an ideal of liberty of freedom, for patriotic values that , upon return to their native lands , they come to realize that these values are coerced on the citizenry? Have they made these sacrifices for nothing? Have they fought so that the powers that be can impose a state of tyranny upon the people? The simplistic answer that one often hears from the cultural conservatives is “ If you don’t like it leave” or “Get out of this country, you don’t belong here” And I am sure that this is a very satisfying albeit vacuous answer – one that has been repeated many times since the founding of Our Great Nation.
Let us take a brief tour through the annals of American history.
During the mid - 19th century there were many people that believed slavery was an injustice and many people did what they could to end this practice.
It took over 100 years of protest from women - often under physical and mental duress - for the right to vote.
Though out the 1950’s and 1960’s many people of color – and every color for that matter – risked jail , abuse , humiliation , so that people of any color could sit where they wanted on the bus or enter the movie theater through the font door, or that they could go to the school of their choosing.
In the late 19th and early 20th century many people risked their livelihoods – and beatings – so that they would not have to work under inhumane conditions at a factory.
Did these people leave? Did these people heed their detractors and head for foreign lands? Most of them stayed.
And – as is their right – they dissented.
For those of you – my fellow Americans - that say dissenters should leave, that they are troublemakers, that they are just making waves and are rocking the boat and that they should just shut up. I ask you this:
Will you be willing to sit in the back of the bus, or enter the movie theater through the back, or perhaps sit in only specific areas of a diner, only due to the amount of pigmentation in your skin?
Are you willing to deny anyone the right to vote due to gender?
Are you willing to work under inhumane conditions for near starvation wages?
Are you willing to be limited – or have your children limited – to what school they can attend due solely to race or ethnicity?
If you say no to these things, then you are enjoying the sacrifices made by past generations of dissenters.
And dissent is the greatest form of patriotism. This is what they fought for.