July 1, 2017


American Patriotism: It Really Is Pretty Special (Mark Lilienthal, 7/01/17, The Valley News)

[W]hen I lived in rural Burgundy, I can tell you that I never saw anyone dressed up as Marianne, France's version of Uncle Sam. No one in my village could give you the French equivalent of "American as Mom and apple pie." Burgundians don't throw their arms over each others' shoulders and belt out patriotic songs, even on Bastille Day.

By contrast, American patriotism is a cornucopia of our individualism. Think of all the way our American pride manifests itself. Just glance at a catalog I got recently: American flags on indoor/outdoor rugs, wine glasses, polo shirts. Online, the bonanza continues: onesies with Abraham Lincoln wearing shades, and dog bandanas, vintage shaving mugs, cufflinks, and parasols covered with the Stars and Stripes. There is seemingly no end to American creativity when it comes to showing the world how wonderful it is to be us.

When we turn music on, the patriotic assault is hard to dodge. No matter your Sirius XM, Spotify or Pandora channel, you're certain to encounter the artistic take on what it means to live here. I could make a playlist full of songs that no self-respecting American would dream of turning off: R.O.C.K in the U.S.A., This Land is Your Land, God Bless the USA, Ray Charles' version of America the Beautiful, Take Me Home, Country Roads, and America -- a song that can give as many goosebumps as the reading of the Declaration of Independence, whether you are listening to Neil Diamond's lyrics or Simon and Garfunkel's take --would all make the cut. On the B side, we could delve into another aspect of American patriotism, namely our right to poke fun at ourselves, or even roundly criticize our society. When one hears all that inside an anthem that brings a stadium crowd to its feet, you know it's an American song. If you just skip over those pesky lyrics, Born in the USA could easily be our national anthem. Who hasn't felt a twinge of moral conflict while turning up the volume on Pink Houses, American Girl, Fortunate Son, or American Pie?

I wanted to make sure I wasn't being too harsh on my French friends, so I reached out to some good Gauls for their take. Jean-Fran├žois Leon, who was raised in France and now lives in Norwich, commented that while there are some patriotic songs in French culture, they are violent songs, rooted in the Revolution, not popular hits. He continued, "It is unimaginable to envision a French person burning the flag." Naively, I thought it was because they have a deeper reverence for the bleu, blanc, rouge. He quickly disabused me of that notion, explaining that the opposite is true: French wouldn't burn the flag because the flag itself has such little value in French life. "If we burned it, it wouldn't shock anyone, so we would never do it."

Posted by at July 1, 2017 6:29 AM