Love of country: It usually starts at childhood.
About a year or so ago, I saw a TIME Magazine article titled, “Do July 4th Parades Turn Kids into Republicans?”, and it made me stop and think about my own childhood, and how it definitely helped to shape me into the Unhyphenated American I am today. I remember the first time I experienced an Air Show. It was 1978, I was little more than five years old, and we were stationed at Loring Air Force Base, in northeastern Maine. I remember my dad putting me up on his shoulders, and I got the chance to see The Thunderbirds (this was during the T-38 Talon era, before they switched to the F-16 Fighting Falcon) Aerial Demonstration Team, doing their precision flying, executing complicated maneuvers, and making high speed passes, so low, it felt like I could reach out and touch them as they flew by.
This was back during the height of the Cold War. It was also during one of the weakest and darkest times for the U.S. Military, when Jimmy “The Peanut Farmer” Carter was miscast in the role of Commander-in-Chief, and morale in the military was lower than a snail’s genitals. Nevertheless, it was one of my earliest vivid memories, and it definitely influenced me for the rest of my life. I would say that the seed for the love of my country was planted that day.
The interesting thing about the love of country that was fostered in me, is that it didn’t include teaching any hate of anyone else.
You see, I was raised primarily in Germany, in a city that was about 90 miles from what was known as the Fulda Gap. Even as a child, we were acutely aware of the fact that, less than 100 miles away, literally hundreds, and possibly thousands of Soviet tanks, and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers were poised to burst through that “Gap”, to take over Western Europe. Every day, the Armed Forces Network (AFN) broadcasted messages, making sure we knew what we were facing. We knew that we were facing an enemy that hated us, and our way of life. But once again, the interesting thing is, there was never any messages teaching us to “hate” the Soviets.
All of this came to mind, because I recently saw an article on the Dailymail UK online, that quoted a study that said, “Germans who were exposed to Nazi propaganda are more likely to be racist than those who weren’t.” When you do some research into Nazi Germany, you realize that a huge part of what that regime was about, included heavy indoctrination of their youth. In fact, there was a specific group of children called, “Hitler Youth”, and they received the heaviest indoctrination. The study from researchers at UCLA and University of Zurich found that there were long-lasting effects from the propaganda that children in Nazi Germany were subjected to. It showed that the kids who went to school between 1933 and 1945, and are adults today, were three times more “committed anti-Semites” than in the population as a whole.
You know, there really is something different about the American Way. We can promote ourselves, without hating someone else. We might hate a particular ideology, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we hate individuals, or even groups of individuals.
The differences in culture and ideology even come through when we talk about the way we honor our warriors. The highest award that any member of the U.S. Military can be awarded, is the Congressional Medal of Honor.
It was created by Congress to be awarded to a member of the armed forces “for gallantry and bravery in combat at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” But if you ever take the time to read the citations of the recipients of the Medal of Honor, you will notice something fascinating. We don’t glorify the killing of enemy soldiers. By default, that also means we aren’t demonizing and preaching hatred of anyone. The award citations always focus on the personal risk the recipient took, the wounds they received, the number of fellow Americans (and/or civilians) they saved…and oh, by the way, they might have also killed a few enemy soldiers while saving the lives of others.
Going back to the TIME Magazine article, in it’s conclusion, as it talked about celebrating our Declaration of Independence, it said,
But does this really mean festivities associated with Independence Day have the power to sway kids to the right? The numbers are minute, but when compared to Democrats, they’re meaningful. The authors, in the interest of bipartisanship, found that July 4th celebrations had no effect on increasing Democrats’ numbers. The reason for the political influence stretches into the realm of ideology. The Republican Party is known to be more patriotic and focused on America’s symbols, according to the study. Children are certainly more open to the influence of this fanfare and are socialized to identify with the Republican values.
Listen, I’m definitely not trying to promote the Republican party, because God knows I have some issues with the leadership of the RNC right now. But maybe it could reasonably be said that, promoting the love of America among children, and belief in the superiority of the American Way, not only makes children more likely to choose a particular political ideology as adults…but it also likely will make them more selfless, as well as making them less likely to hate others. If this true, then God Bless America…
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above;
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.