by Mary Fahnestock-Thomas, Hamilton
You don’t see a lot of flags in Germany since Hitler, especially not national flags. Many people consider them jingoistic – exaggeratedly and aggressively “patriotic” – and in the first half of the 20th century they had quite enough of that and it destroyed their country. Without the admittedly self-interested generosity of the United States, it would still be recovering. I don’t know that Germans are any more humble than anyone else, but they are trying to learn from history.
Ryan Zinke was in Hamilton for a County Commissioners’ meeting several weeks ago, presumably because he has his eye on the new Montana Congressional seat, and the first thing he said when he spoke was, “I’m a patriot. That means I stand up for …” – I missed the exact words but understood them to be “the national anthem” and/or “the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Is that what it means to be a patriot? Not to me, and I’m pretty sure I am one. Long ago I tried really hard to expatriate to Germany, but ultimately I realized that this is my home, specifically Montana, at least partly because in my childhood here I felt safe and surrounded by kind people who, however much education they did or did not have, cared about other people and what really seems right, not just what others told them.
It feels less that way these days. It seems as if a lot of folks who identify with a Wild West that never really existed except in movies and paperback novels feel threatened as the world – inevitably – changes, and at least some of them think that charging around like Cavalry with flags flying shows how much they love their country.
I think that’s a pretty cheap kind of “patriotism,” like that of the “patriots” who stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, a year ago to try to prevent our elected government from functioning … with the encouragement of a man whose only loyalty is to himself.