Love of country

Love of country takes many forms.

For some, it means flags and oaths, patriotic rites observed on hallowed occasions. Buy a star-spangled t-shirt to show others where you stand. Feel good wearing it. Retailing at $5.99, this shirt traveled farther than most of us will in a lifetime, but we will complain if it costs $6.99 next year. That’s our right.

PHOTO: Artondra Hall, Flickr CC-BY

Love of country may also be found in our righteous anger, in our lamentations over the way things could be better. Protest is a different kind of oath. Protesters believe in something. They imagine some better world, even if it is only a fantasy. Beyond teeth and rocks, most of what we have once qualified as fantasy. 

The people who know love best know something that escapes many patriots. These are the ones married 50 years and counting, or the ones who gave organs to save their brother or sister. Love is rarely euphoric. Sometimes it’s not even fun. It is a long progression of daily choices made with others, not self, in mind. The reward will not be found in shouts or torchlight, but in the quiet satisfaction of life shared and roots entwined. The plant will bloom beyond our years; what a joy that is!

Love of country is a well-oiled chainsaw full of gas. It stands ready to clear the road after a storm or, perhaps, to cleave a human skull. The user decides. Sometimes there are accidents.

Love of country, like its sibling love of God, can be used to justify all manner of incremental sin. In our quest to avoid being fooled by others, let us not fool ourselves. Behind our many obvious differences among us lies enough similarity to build shared values.

We all vote for our country on Election Day. Yes, all of us, even the ones who are wrong, and in the big picture that might be most of us, most of the time. We do not know the future, but we may always remember the wisdom of the preacher at a wedding. Love is a verb, not a noun, not a badge, not a club to wield over others. It’s something we do. 

Voting is one way to show our love of country, but not the only way. It is also the way we talk to each other, the way we tolerate differences, the way we look beyond Friday’s payday or even our retirement accounts to the world we leave our children. 

Loving America means loving Americans, the ones in the city and in the country, the Democrats and the Republicans. Wishing joy for half and pain for the other half is not love of country, but a prophecy of doom. Imagining violence, wishing for ruin, these are the hallmarks of the traitor, not the patriot. 

Loving America also means loving truth — one truth, or at least our best effort toward finding it. We cannot exist as a country of separate facts, nor can we can abide a contest of ideas in which one side wishes destruction upon the other. 

Ultimately, love of country means knowing that no country, like no person, is infallible. Not because they are weak, but because there is no country like the nation of truth and grace. It is a long parade of human consciousness that marches past our small place on time’s sidewalk. 

May we each recognize why we are here before the music stops. We must live our citizenship to love our country.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.

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