Screenshot 2023-08-06 at 1.33.09 PM.png


They are, they tell you, red-blooded, white-hatted, true-blue Americans. You see them on the news, perhaps on the roads, maybe at your dinner table. If you’re white, they may be relatives. They’re certainly among your neighbors, unless you live in a totally blue area.

You may know them as the ones who show up with shovels when your car needs to be dug out of the snow, when your dad needs a lift to the Legion meeting, when somebody’s sick and they bring casseroles. Good guys. Good gals.

That gets confusing when they’re also the ones who vote for a president you see as a power-mad con man, when they join groups that attempt a coup, that advocate civil war to give the con man more power. WTH?

It all has me pondering a lot of things, including patriotism. Just that one thing right now, the nature of patriotism, for an American. Not all the many many other aspects of the differences we’re experiencing with each other. Only this, for now—what does it mean to be an American patriot?

I know I’m a patriot. I love the innate American hopefulness that we can do better, our wise-ass sense of humor, our informality. I love the memory of our being Good Guys who went across the seas to stop the Japanese from ruling all of Asia, the Nazis from taking over Europe.

I’m proud that we keep working on this more perfect union thing, looking at where we fall short, trying harder to do it right. It’s not, for me, “My country right or wrong,” despite growing up in a military family, where the ethos was Await orders. Obey promptly. Do not question.

Despite nagging doubts that it made sense, I gave that a go. Took me way too long to figure out that Question Authority or—as Linda Ellerbee has urged, Question Everything—was a better mode of operation. An MO that made me more American, not less.

The Founders questioned authority, gloriously. Sons of the Enlightenment, they looked at the Divine Right of King George to rule them and decided it was nuts. Power didn’t rest in one anointed guy, it was in the people, who didn’t need no stinkin’ king.

Now there are Americans waving flags, chanting U!S!A! and calling themselves patriots, who seem to want a king. The power-mad con man tells them only he can protect them from awful dangers, that he is the genius who understands things better than they can, that he will abolish the Constitutional stuff that just keeps him from getting great things done for them. Not by them. For them.

It seems a drive to relinquish responsibility as citizens, as a choice to not be those free people the Founders championed, people who don’t need a strongman telling them what to do. The desire to empower a strongman doesn’t look like patriotism to me. It sounds more like, Standing by, awaiting orders, your Majesty.

The Founders, those magnificent rebels against a strongman, would be horrified that the nation they freed is now full of people who want to surrender the power and control they fought to secure for us.

The Founders were patriots, American patriots whose work we need to build on to become that more perfect union, doing the work as free American citizens, thinking for ourselves, figuring it out democratically, making it real.