I am not a patriotic person.
When everyone's supposed to be saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school, I stand silently at my desk. When The Star-Spangled Banner plays before a football game, I'm more focused on my brackets for the season than the tired old tune buzzing in my ears. I can't recall the last time I wore red, white, and blue on Independence Day, or any other day.
And yet, I love America more than most other people you'll meet.
One of my favorite songs is American Idiot by the popular punk rock band Green Day. Take a moment to look past the seemingly-unpatriotic title and you'll realize that the lyrics actually speak of a profound love of our country.
The song criticizes America's overuse of the media, arguing that technology overload stifles the freedoms which were the reasons our great nation was founded. Furthermore, it is a call to action for the American people to break free of our dependence on the media and return to our true American roots. The people who listen to this kind of music don't hate America; they are willing to fight to save it.
Try explaining this to anyone who considers himself a passionate patriot, and you'll be lucky to get two words in before you're faced with a pro-America rant.
Here's another example.
I once announced to some friends that I considered the bald eagle to be a very unattractive creature.
Instantly the faces of my companions morphed into unfamiliar masks of patriotism as they fired a barrage of fierce protest at me. I was accused of making up ludicrous statements in attempt to get attention, or of being an America-hater. One supposed-friend even called my remark terrorist.
Yet my opinion was based on no more than pure fact. While our national bird perched on an olive tree with the American flag flying triumphantly in the background would indeed appear majestic and beautiful, this is simply a propagandist image, not reality.
The reality is that the bald eagle is a wild animal. Furthermore, it assumes what could be considered a rather undignified niche in the food chain, that of a scavenger. The sight of the eagle's white head stained deep red after devouring a half-rotten deer carcass is certainly not a pretty one. The brilliant white feathers for which the bird is famous actually are something of a hindrance to its survival, as the blood that can collect there is a magnet for disease.
Perhaps a better-adapted scavenger bird would be the turkey vulture. The fleshy head and neck that give the creature its reputation for being ugly actually aid in cleanliness, as blood from its meal is less likely to collect there.
I was called an America-hater simply because I'd looked past all the blinding patriotism to see the truth.
Over the years, so much emphasis has been placed on the symbols of America that the deeper meaning for which they once stood has been lost. Is it right that to love America, we must love all of its smaller idols as well? What's wrong with just loving America itself?
It's tough to convince people that non-patriots, people who don't consider Lady Liberty to be anything special in the looks department, people who think American nationalism has become something verging on snobbery, can still be passionate lovers of the United States as much as someone else who tramps around in a red, white, and blue top-hat. But gradually, I really believe that people have begun to accept my unique mindset on American pride. And sometimes, after listening to what I have to say, they tell me that they even understand what it truly means to be an American even better than they did before.
I am not a patriot.
And I love America.