10/10/10 A perfect afternoon in San Francisco--bathed in sun and cooled by a refreshing off-shore breeze that filtered in through the remnants of fog across our Golden Gate, we sat on the lush green meadow below Ghirardelli Square, near the Dolphin Club, surrounded by a pleasant crowd of people made up of tourists visiting one of the world's great cities, mixed with locals sharing the delights we often take for granted. Families, youths and pensioners from all walks of life and various ethnic backgrounds gathered harmoniously to enjoy what has become an annual rite of passage: The Blue Angels aerobatic team.
Blasting suddenly overhead with an earth-trembling roar and seemingly so low that one could almost touch them, they appeared majestically from the west, over the high-rise canyons of the financial district behind us and turned upwards with a flick, shooting like arrows straight into the sky, until they disappeared in a matter of mere seconds only to reappear just as quickly, heading down towards us at speed. What a thrill!
Breaking rank at the last possible instant they shot away in six different directions leaving only trails of red, white and blue vapor to disperse before our astounded eyes while they reassembled for their next maneuver. Evoking spontaneous ovations from appreciative crowds of admirers gathered at the Marina Green, Crissy Field, Fort Baker, China Beach and many other vantage points stretched around and across our bay, they continued to perform their magic, enthralling us for a good long while.
The power, beauty and precision of these exhibitions evokes an awe for the remarkable technology on display as well as the human achievement behind them. It engenders pride in the knowledge that our way of life is responsible for these advances and such pride translates rather easily into patriotism. A patriotism felt equally by American natives as by naturalized Americans who chose this land and its system of government for themselves.
However, we should be clear about which type of patriotism we are talking about, for there are many types of patriotism. There is the blind patriotism that in the face of any perceived threat resorts immediately to flag waving slogans like: "America, love it or leave it." That is weak and lazy patriotism that eventually tries to excuse itself with phrases like, "I was only following orders."
There is also the type of patriotism that assumes that our advances, discoveries and 'progress' makes us better than others and gives us the right to impose our will upon them. That is bully patriotism and it is doomed to failure because it doesn't grow out of courage but, ironically, out of cowardice, the very opposite of courage. It is false and hollow patriotism because bullies are nothing more than cowards overcompensating to hide their failure and their shame.
Then there is the 'us against them' type of patriotism. Its hallmark is a knee-jerk reaction in times of economic crisis to find an easy scapegoat, and the weakest members of society are by definition the easiest. This type of patriotism calls upon the worst part of our instincts rather than the best. Hitler understood that very well.
At a time when true democracy is again threatened from within by those who would continue to enrich themselves and the most wealthy at the further expense of the rest of our society in spite of the near collapse of our system that such greed recently produced, what this country needs is real, genuine patriotism.
Real patriotism requires effort. It requires work, vigilance and a nurturing hand. Real patriots promote a good education for their children so that they won't be fooled by slogans and sound bites that special interests employ to win the votes of the very people they exploit. True patriots are informed voters. They don't vote out of fear, prejudice or convenience.
It is not enough to cast a vote for a system that has often been described as "far from perfect but still better than any current alternative." True patriots work to minimize those imperfections so that the system that has given us so much to be proud of can continue to be the best alternative.
Causes Frank Pineiro Supports