Glenn Beck was at it again this week; it seems that the very idea of soccer annoys him. All of those other nations play it, you see. Apparently, at least in the dark recesses of Glenn’s mind, the world is trying to force the U.S. into A New World Sports Order. In the confused mindset that defines so much of Beck’s ideas, the rest of the world is both insignificant and a threat. This is the prevailing idea in that sub-culture of Americans who define our nation’s greatness as an us against them battle with the world. While I could almost be sold on that notion, it is the secondary trait within the sub-culture that I find dangerous.
Friends, we have all heard the type; “America is the greatest, how dare you criticize our country”. “America is the beacon of freedom, how dare you acknowledge a mistake?” “America is the only thing standing between the world and eternal darkness, how dare….” well, you get the picture. The irony of the previous statements is found in our national sport of football. Most Americans know, instinctively, what happens to teams that win the Super Bowl; they inevitably get too big for their britches and find themselves eating humble pie. I hate to be cynical, but we are starting to taste the crumbs of humility, even while we dare the red meat of hubris.
I am an American chauvinist; while I don’t believe in manifest destiny, I do believe that my country’s unique history, unparalleled resources, and people make the United States the greatest nation in the world. What I firmly reject, is the notion of absolute greatness that some wish to bestow, unilaterally, on our country. WWII ended 65 years ago; we beat the Communists to the Moon 41 years ago. And here the haunting refrain is played; “What have you done for me lately?”
Kicking the hell out of Iraqis is an honor reserved for the nation’s warrior elite. It is theirs alone, regardless of how many ribbons you tied on or prayer circles you joined. The Cold War was a good accomplishment, but the Europeans with whom we seem to enjoy a sort of sibling rivalry, stood literally toe to toe with the Red Menace. We had oceans between us and doom, they had minutes. We do love to rag on the Europeans though, don’t we? Coming back to the football reference, NFL teams spend a lot of energy installing best practices they see in other teams, into their own plans. The sub-culture I refer to would rather cut out their own tongues than admit that Germany does something better than we; and it is a shame. The sooner we admit that a nation does it better, the sooner we can take the practice and make it our own.
When I think of that brand of patriotism that hates criticism, rejects apologies, and derides open communication with other nations as equals, I think of the Thunderbirds. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have been dazzling air show audiences since 1953. They have a rigorous training philosophy (and let me acknowledge now their mirror in the Navy’s Blue Angels). Every single detail, breath, stick and rudder input, radio call…everything that goes into the performance is micro-scrutinized. Criticism is intense and often self-generated. Appeals to mercy or the history of the team do not mitigate the experience. In fact, the history of success enjoyed by the team is precisely the reason that they are so critical of one another. They simply hold themselves to the highest possible standard.
And that friends, is my definition of patriotism. I will emphatically restate my position that the United States of America is the greatest nation in the history of man. And I hold my country, and my personal citizenship, to the highest possible standards. Those who want to wring their hands over bows, apologies, and acknowledgements are free to come or go as they will. Those that claim that their brand of do-nothing-then-brag patriotism is the real deal, are free to follow Rush Limbaugh over to Costa Rica. He did promise to go, didn’t he?
The Rational Middle is feeling a little cranky tonight; but still listening…