This country is not the country of my youth. I am not blaming either political party. I know it is easy to blame others who don’t think like you for changes you don’t want to in any way be associated with. I know it is easier to assign a scapegoat than deciding to be the change you want to see. Regardless of any blame I must personally accept, I find it hard on national holidays that honor our military-whether they were killed in active duty or lived to be a ripe old age-to be as patriotic and proud as I used to be of this country.
Out of high school, I joined the National Guard to pay for college tuition. (NOT going to college was not really a choice.) Even though I received an honorable medical discharge due to injuries, it was something I am proud to say I did. My father even signed up in the Army Reserve as he anticipated retiring in 12 years. (He already had some National Guard experience in the early 60’s.) Although I didn’t love everything about National Guard weekend drills and I may have even thought some of the exercises were not very productive, it allowed me to look in the mirror and see a guy who made some small attempt to make his country a better place.
Now, in 2016, it would be convenient to blame the party of the President, but it isn’t fair to do that. Being “pro-country” is easy when the country is unified, despite some left/right differences, to make the country successful. In the past decade (9/11 did unify for a brief period), individuals have felt no satisfaction trying to compromise. They have ran to the edges of the spectrum. (An argument could be made that compromise becomes more difficult when the “center” is quite a bit further to the left than it used to be.)
One thing I think it is very fair to blame the President for–a lack of leadership. If you define presidential leadership as, “doing what you personally want to get done despite what campaign promises you made, despite what you have clear constitutional authority to do, and despite what is consistent for all Americans not just for Americans you feel deserve more attention and affection,” then you are probably pretty happy with the state of the country. I don’t take this approach. I accept a leader is going to be flawed. And, I accept a leader will not always make decisions I will like. What I have a hard time accepting is a “leader” and his sycophants who constantly tells me my opinions, faith, and priorities have no value. (I also shy away from the “talking heads” who align themselves exactly with me–I have arrived at my opinions and have NOT been programmed.)
Why am I a proud (with a little “p”) American? I still use the word proud because I believe in many of the things this country and has done and the people who sacrificed everything so I might be able to express my opinions and have the opportunity to listen to those of others. Having pride in my country and the dream it once offered is something every American should have the ability to do. Maintaining the pride is a different matter. And, it is for this reason the “p” has been demoted to lower case. I would like to hold out hope my country will again emerge as the “last bastion of hope” for those in the world who seek freedom. The past few years have nearly smothered this hope within me. The divisive nature of the political bickering has left me with a plan many may call “quitting”.
Fortunately, as I walk and as I talk to others, there are those capable of bigger hope than I am. They still put their flags-both small and big-with pride in their front yards. They see it as a responsibility to have a flag near the tombstone of every veteran. And, they realize despite the countries current path, our path would have been a far different one were it not for those who gave it all. Thank you to those who did not make it back when the US went to war. And, thank you to those who daily remind us that every life shed for the sake of our country is one worth honoring.