Thursday, July 17, 2008

Waving the Flag

So I’m kinda conflicted on patriotism. You’re patriotic if you went out and shopped after September 11 but you’re not if you question the authority of the president...

You’re patriotic if you sing along with the National Anthem at Busch Stadium or the Muny. You’re not patriotic if you buy a Honda. You’re patriotic if you throw a God Bless America and a Glory Glory Hallelujah in the middle of a juggling act in Branson, Missouri… really?

This past weekend was my first trip to Branson. For all you twenty-somethings out there who have heard the ads on the radio like me, let me save you the trouble. Yes, Branson can be fun, if you are a flag-waving parent of two with a bevy of patriotic hymns to entertain the whole family with on your ride down. Branson is a good ol’ fashioned American town and it doesn’t want to be anything different.

Now I’m not saying this as a bad thing necessarily. For the right crowd, Branson is great. Bumper boats, ice cream cones, Go-Karts, aging country stars who were popular back in the day… it’s kinda like a cruise ship sailing right through the heartland. In my two days there I swam in the lake, saw some very talented performers, sat through one hell of a thunderstorm, and did some great outlet shopping. But the thing that got me more than anything else was the patriotism.

You see, Branson has an unwritten rule that every show will include a gospel section and a patriotic section. I understand, it’s nice to honor your veterans and your country, but does it mean the same if it’s forced like this? Maybe I’m a hypocrite. I get chills when El-Al plays Ha-Tikva as you land in Israel, but waving flags and mass patriotism seems cheesy. What gives?

Honestly, I think it comes down to pride and to size. Sure, America does things I am not proud of, and so does Israel. But do we as Americans really need to beat our chest over every little thing to prove to people that we are #1? Can’t we just let Michael Phelps speak for us at the Olympics next month? But Israel on the other hand, she deserves the right to brag every now and then. Hell, every time the sun rises in Israel it’s something to be proud of. So to me, it’s the fact that Israel has something to celebrate, whereas American patriotism to me sometimes comes off as the Harlem Globetrotters celebrating after another victory over the Washington Generals.

Am I being too hard on America, too easy on Israel? You tell me. What I do know is that in Israel, you don’t just show your patriotism by singing along.


Y? said...

I was reading the comment board over at the other day and there was a really interesting (read: fairly nasty and ignorant) discussion of America and Israel going on over there.

Basically there is this interesting issue in the young, liberal, Birthright generation in which they often have stronger nationalistic feelings towards Israel than the US. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are pretty spoiled here and have other people doing our fighting for us. Most of the talk of terrorism and war only effects us at the gas pump, as opposed to actual carnage or devastation.

Still, interesting article. I think American-Jews are probably more nationalistic towards Israel than a lot of Israelis, I call it 'arm-chair-zionism'

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you that it can seem forced but I think most of that is because it has become standard in so many of our activities (ie singing the national anthem before sporting events, so many holidays honoring soldiers and our country)

Branson Missouri is a completely different story all together. The best description I've ever heard of Branson is that it is like Las Vegas if it were owned by Ned Flanders. Being religious and patriotic there is just the thing to do, it makes you cool in front of all the middle America bumpkins you will find there. But as far as feeling more of a connection to Israel than the US or visa versa is very relative. I'm sure there are plenty of American Jews who are on the other side that you are and feel a closer connection to America (one being me).