Sunday, October 23, 2016

Walking While American

Yesterday I was walking around my town, knocking on doors and pondering my own patriotism.

It's something I rarely do. Contemplate the fact that I am an American citizen.

Now that I think about it, the few times in my life when I did think about being American were when I was out of the country.

A trek across the Canadian border when I was nineteen and a sudden (scary) realization that I was no longer on American soil. A week in Barcelona, Spanish and Catalan being spoken all around me-- and other languages too, German, Polish, French-- tourists strolling or sitting at nearby cafe tables-- my ears were tuned into every small snippet of spoken English. When I heard a person speaking with an American accent, I'd want to run over and introduce myself, shake hands, say: Hey! I'm an American too! How the heck are ya'?

After 9/11 I felt a rush of patriotic feelings so profound and overwhelming that I got a lump in my throat every time I saw an American flag. And flags were everywhere in the days after that attack. Like a lot of Americans, I didn't know what to do with these feelings of solidarity and pride in my country except hang my own flag.

But mostly, I don't think about it. There aren't many ways to express patriotism except flag-waving. Or singing the national anthem, hand on your heart, pretending you know every word and can sing those insanely high notes.

And here's a question: Why do we only sing that song at sporting events? I'm not much of a sports person, so I rarely attend games. It's weird that the only time we show our love of country is right before a bunch of guys on a field are about to tackle each other. I know people will say that a sports event is a great place to sing the anthem because of all of the people gathered in one place.

So why not sing before a movie? Or a play? Or a concert?

Schools don't sing the national anthem. This is not a new thing. When I was growing up, we saluted the flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance and then we sang "My Country Tis of Thee" or "America the Beautiful." I visit a lot of schools all over the country, and students still do this.

As adults we don't pledge to the flag every morning. There's not much asked of us, really, as citizens. We can vote (although many of us do not do that). We can serve on a jury (although most of us try to get out of it). We pay taxes (and most likely bitch about it).

But what is more patriotic than contributing to the infrastructure of our society? Our schools and libraries and fire departments and police departments and military--our Government--the people we elect to serve us.

Like most Americans, I am tired and worn down by this election. Dismayed by the vitriol and anger and fear I've been hearing. I've been so disgusted that I have been tempted to turn off all news and social media, just wait the days out until election day is over.

Instead, I voted early.

And I signed up to canvas a neighborhood in my town on behalf of an election campaign. I have never done this before, and honestly, I was not looking forward to it. The idea of knocking on strangers' doors and carrying a clipboard seemed... blucky and totally out of my comfort zone.

But I walked over to the campaign headquarters with a friend and we picked up our clipboard and our flyers, and off we went.

After the initial blucky awkwardness, I felt strangely patriotic. I am not getting all political with you. I am not telling you who I voted for or what campaign I am representing. (If you know me, you KNOW.) What I want to share with you is how nice it was to walk around on a brisk sunny day, to greet people I knew and people I didn't, to feel a part of something bigger than myself, to know that I while I was doing a very small thing, it was better than sitting in front of my laptop and stewing over Facebook post comments.

I wasn't waving a flag or singing the national anthem but showing my patriotism even so. Speaking out about who I think will best lead this country and urging my fellow citizens to do their part too.


  1. Yesterday my husband and I spent the afternoon at a phone bank, making calls to try to get out more volunteers. And I felt patriotic too. Love you Jody!!!

    1. There is something to be said for putting yourself out there and taking a stand, isn't there? PS: Love you too, Susan :)

  2. In my elementary school, they did play the national anthem as part of the opening exercises. (I remember puzzling over the lyrics, and words like "ramparts").
    But frankly the things that make me feel most patriotic are serving jury duty and voting. I've also marched on Washington, and that felt pretty patriotic.

    1. I've never marched before, but I have attended rallies and I did go to a protest once-- a couple of years ago in solidarity of the librarians in Ohio, whose jobs were on the chopping block. That felt pretty good... even though we lost that fight.

  3. I'm going to be canvassing the weekend before the election with a few friends. I'm excited (and nervous as well). I was to hear more about your experiences! :)

    1. It wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. And lots more walking than I realized. Bring a bottle of water!