Tag Archives: patriotism

patriot card

Playing The Patriot Card.

By: Chris Warren.

We have survived two political conventions. No matter what side one is on, it’s universally agreed that two weeks every four years is pushing the limits of tolerance. One conclusion I made from watching portions of both spectacles is that playing the patriot card is often an effective campaign tactic, but it can devalue honorable service and become very unpatriotic and ugly.

For those who don’t know, in political vernacular “playing the patriot card” means to wrap an issue in a theme of loyalty to country, and if you don’t agree, you’re not a good American. The message is almost always delivered by someone with a connection to the military. Because the military is so highly regarded in the United States, people are less inclined to publicly disagree with the message because it implies disrespect to the messenger.

The hustle works like this: A veteran or the family of a veteran who has made a significant sacrifice in service to their country appears at a political rally and publicly endorses a candidate, or speaks against the opposing candidate. Their status presumably gives them a high level of insulation against criticism from the other side. Nobody wants to tell a military hero or their relative that he or she is full of crap (even if they actually are). Anyone who does is loudly called out as insensitive and anti-American. That is how a successful play of the patriot card goes down, and it’s very effective.

Here’s where I have a problem: When someone uses a deep personal sacrifice as a premise to promote a political candidate or cause, to a great extent they forfeit their right to be treated gently because of that sacrifice. They knew or should have known that transforming into an activist means being given much less deference. Their immunity is further eroded if they continue to make media appearances and repeat the same rants. At that point their story no longer belongs to them. They donated it to a political cause.

The first question that comes to mind is, is it disrespectful to trash talk a sympathetic figure who plays the patriot card when you disagree with their political statements? But there is a second question no one ever asks: Isn’t is also disrespectful to offer up the honor of a military hero to score votes for a candidate?

To me the only sensible answer is either “yes” to both questions or “no” to both. One cannot logically have it both ways and say it’s disrespectful to criticize a veteran or their relatives while totally ignoring the fact that it was the veteran or relative themselves who willfully allowed their patriotic contribution to be used as a shill for a political campaign in the first place. Of course even in politics there is such a thing as “too low,” but it’s not my place to figure out that mess. I’ll leave it to others to decide where legitimate criticism ends and ad hominem attacks begin.

In a perfect world, political views would be supported with polite, reasoned arguments and facts. Because American politics seldom operates within any realm of reason or civility, the rules are different than in real life. Those who have sacrificed for their country absolutely, positively deserve the respect they’ve earned. But when they play the patriot card and deal themselves in to the chaotic game of politics, they should understand that the moral armor of distinguished military service becomes much thinner when it is used as a prop for a candidate.

greatness

This Land Is My Land

By: Chris Warren

Maybe it’s the wide open skies, or the view that goes for endless miles, but I get a sense of freedom being out in the country. The sweetest moments are when I cannot see any man made object, not even a jet trail in the sky, or hear any man made noise. I marvel at it all and hear a voice that says “God exists.” It’s a complete peace, a greatness, that no city or human-based creation can replicate.

The other day I was on a road trip that took me through north central Illinois. I’ve made this trip dozens of times before and I never find myself in a state of bored repetitiveness. Sitting on the tailgate of my truck sipping a cold soda I had a perfect view of cornfields meeting a clear blue sky that literally stretched as far as I could see. As if on cue, a bird started singing. I look over my shoulder to spot a cardinal (which is the state bird of Illinois, by the way). It was greatness in the voice of a little bird.

Any place that you can hear only natural sounds is a good place. My own backyard qualifies, most of the time, depending on which way the wind is blowing and how busy the railroad is. When I visit the big city, the thing I notice the most is the noise. In the city there is never a moment when I cannot hear some form of man made noise.

greatness
Driver’s seat view from my pickup truck rolling through northern Illinois, July 21, 2015

I first came to appreciate the greatness of the natural world years ago when I discovered motorcycles. I was looking for a place to rip through turns and charge up hills and run free for hours without the inconvenience of traffic congestion. Not being encapsulated in a car meant I could smell the trees and the muddy rivers, and yes even the cows. I could feel the subtle temperature changes when I rolled through a shaded grove. I found myself purposely stopping in the middle of nowhere and shutting the engine off just to meditate on the greatness of nature without man’s interference.

Nature taught me about its majesty by tempting me to stop and pay attention to it, which is actually not very hard when the man made distractions are gone. From the fields and birds mere feet away to the wind and lightning and stars and the planets in the night sky, nature has much to tell. Through some cosmic twist of irony, the natural world says the most about itself during the quietest moments. For all the greatness of the earth I’ve been lucky enough to see for myself, there is so much more out there I have not seen. Spending a few hours zipping through the Midwest is cool for what it is, but the United States also has mountains and valleys and oceans, all of which have their own unique lessons to teach.

A few years ago I went on another road trip to visit a friend in Florida, and that of course means hitting the beach! He did not take me to the touristy beach where there are so many people and blankets that you can barely see the sand; he instead took me to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Most of the place is not accessible by car. We trudged for over half an hour, through the sand and Florida heat, dragging our stuff with us. We plopped down in a spot where we could not see a single person both ways up the shore. But for some tall buildings in the distance and the occasional boat going by, I could have been fooled into thinking we were shipwrecked on an island. We brought our iPhones to play some music, but we never used them. The sound of the waves gently rolling in and the caw of the gulls was too perfect to be marred by digital cacophony.

Most people live in or near a large city, and while there is nothing wrong with that, the city makes it too easy to become detached from what the world would be like if humans were not constantly messing with it. I like convenient shopping and quick pizza delivery as much as anyone, but being away from it does a lot for me too. The country is nature’s way of saying it does not need tall buildings and impressive boulevards to achieve greatness. It gives me a feeling of appreciation for God’s wonder, the perfect plan of His creation, and patriotism for a mighty nation that has given me more than what can be contained within its vast borders. The land stretches out before me for more miles than my truck will ever reach and speaks of His greatness without using a single word.