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Patriotism for Kids


Even though I kind of hate it when writers and politicians use their children’s cute little utterances to illustrate points — I am going to do it here. James Gimpel gives a data-backed defense of Sarah Palin’s comments about some places and people being more patriotic than others, here. He writes,

Also, rural areas are more Republican, and the University of Michigan survey shows a significant partisan difference in patriotism. Democrats are considerably less likely to express strong love of country than Republicans are, and less likely to think being an American is important. Of those who claimed to be “Strong Democrats,” only around half expressed extremely strong love of country, compared to three-fourths of the “Strong Republicans.” A sizable share of (but by no means all) committed Democrats are apparently embarrassed about their country and about being American.

So, last weekend, in a beautiful town in rural Vermont, my 10 year old, Sarah, looked at a purple painted house festooned with peace signs, and said — “Look. Obama voters.” We had seen plenty of Obama lawn signs — and an equal number of McCain ones as it happens — but this house didn’t have one. “How do you know they’re Obama voters,” I asked. (Not that I doubted it. I just wanted to understand how she made the connection.) She rolled her baby blues at me and said, “Mom. A peace sign. What do you think?” So I asked, “What sign would tell you that people are McCain voters?” Sarah and her 9 year old sister simultaneously and without hesitating said, “An American flag.”

I have, in fact, refused to buy them clothing or accessories with peace signs on them — which are popular at the moment. I have explained many times that peace is good, but the peace sign is about walking away from a job we need to finish. Mostly they roll their eyes at the lecture added to the “no.” I try not to discuss support for the war in terms of parties.

I’m glad someone at the University of Michigan went to the trouble of quantifying these fundamentally self-evident associations. It is both sad and a little amusing that, the minute anyone (Palin, that is) uttered an unfiltered comment expressing the same observation, she was slapped down, and had to apologize. I wonder if the speech police will soon require parents to explain to their children that, while one side in the culture war is always criticizing their country’s actions, its essential nature and its “meanness,” that does not in any way mean that that side loves its country any less than the side where people say they love their country and leave it at that. And if you tell your kid that, and she accepts it, wouldn’t you worry that she wasn’t very bright?