Faded Colors

by on Sep.04, 2009, under politics, sports

I’m going to start off with an analogy regarding birthdays.  As children, birthdays are absolutely great days – days of celebration of a milestone, days of cake and presents and family and friends.  Every child looks forward to celebrating birthdays – their own or even those of people to whom they are close.  But as we grow older what birthdays symbolize changes – they become reminders of our mortality and moments of introspection.  In some cases we may even opt out of celebrating all of them – a choice that may seem unfathomable to our younger selves.  Wow – that analogy went deeper than I expected.  The real topic I want to discuss for which I drew such an analogy is patriotism.

As I was watching the Eagles game the other night, I became aware that at one point in NFL history the Eagles and the Steelers had merged (a team-up informally known as the Steagles).  Upon looking up this event in history, I came to find that this corresponded to World War II and was due to many of the players volunteering to join the service and fight instead of stick around and play games.  Such patriotic actions also greatly impacted baseball – a much more prominently appreciated sport at the time.  And players who couldn’t serve for medical reasons were often looked down upon.  Yet today such uniform patriotism no longer seems prevalent and few are judged as being un-American for not wanting to serve in the armed forces – wartime or not.

Perhaps it was the questionable engagements of the 60’s and 70’s that lead us to our loss of innocence.  Maybe the war games of the 80’s made us more skeptical and cynical regarding our government’s military decision-making.  Surely the recent series of questionable maneuvers have subdued our appetite to join the fray.  But I have doubts that one or several changes in administration will wash away this new mentality.  I think that the American people may have grown up, and the zeal we once had to be all we could be may be, at least as a collective mindset, an experience that is permanently in our past.  We know that struggles will continue and we still have respect for our great nation, but we may never again look forward to taking on the evils of the world in the name of God and country.

This is not to say that American patriotism is dead, but rather that it has evolved.  Much like we grow past the cake and party favors we clung to as children, we are learning that loving our nation isn’t so black and white.  We can show our respect without being compelled to be on the front lines.

Perhaps I’m wrong – perhaps my own cynicism is too deep for me to see the forest through the trees.  Maybe a time WILL come when we, as a nation, will face a struggle that will compels us to a greater unified purpose.  But it isn’t where we are today … which seems perfectly fine to me – hell, I think it makes me love this country even more.

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