What a decade it has been to start this 21st century! In retrospect, the volatility and unpredictability of events on both domestic and international fronts has been staggering....conflict, war, boom & bust.... I think to a certain degree, everyone expects a dynamic, fast-changing, future - it's implicit in the word's meaning.
9/11 certainly changed the world, and will likely go down in history as THE defining event that helped shape this decade. Time will tell of its prominence throughout the remainder of this century, but a fire was lite and flags hit the assembly line, were raised, stitched, or stickered just as fast. It was a harsh slap to the American face - one that woke this nation from its loathing, self-centered, money grubbing excesses of the late 90s. It forced reflection and questioning of who we were as a people - a search for identity. Out of the fear, anger, sadness, and searching, Americans came together. Out of uncertainty, and the grave possibility of wide-scale global violence over re-ignited clashings of worldviews arose a renewed spirit of patriotism - one that my grandfather and other wise elders said they hadn't seen since World War II.
For a brief time, true solidarity arose from the chaos, but it wasn't long before much of the mainstream media (e.g. pompous pundits, disingenuine newscasters, fake reporters, hypocritical radio blabbers, etc) and some politicians began to use our new found patriotism as a divisive tool in creating a polarized playing board for their subversive motives of power and / or profit - really just competing entertainment disguised as unbiased news or constructive argument. It obscured the issues and derailed healthy debate from decisions of international policy all the way to rifting the bonds of community and neighbor. It's never all bad, but within the mixed bag, the meaning of what it was to be a patriot or patriotic had been contorted.
Those that know me, are aware of my general distaste of some television productions, and occasional cynicism towards the mass media. It's more an issue of distrust than contempt, although the former can lead to the latter in extreme cases. It has been nearly seven years since I first delved within the academic realm of critical studies and that's a decent amount of time to match up experience and perceived reality with that of theory and concept - ultimately equating to the formation of personal opinion, beliefs, and conviction.
So despite what is often portrayed or depicted on many widely broadcasted / distributed news sources, America overall really has less sharp contrasting disagreement and is less polarized with either "side" being no less patriotic than the other. After more than a thousand miles across urban, rural, "red", or "blue" lands, I believe this more than ever. Don't get me wrong, we are still the melting pot of the world and arguably the most pluralistic society, but it pains me to see the mounting misconceptions, the building of false pretenses, or good people's perspectives about their fellow Americans skewed because of strategically manufactured mis-information. It can create hate. And in the words of an old blues guitarist I met in Eugene, "Ain't no time to hate."
"Understanding" today's language, but specifically, our culture's current conception of patriotism is a key interest here....After spending a year away in Puerto Rico, and looking, listening, and thinking about our country from the outside, it is with this journey, that I dive back in, re-learning, re-living and re-breathing America... maybe inspiring a few along the way, but wanting more to sew a single stitched seam of solidarity from one coast to the next in reminding us that some of us are STILL out there fighting for our beliefs and attempting to preserve our way of life that defines us in one way shape or form. It is out of the beauty in discovering who we are, discovering the history of who we have been, what we are made of, and what we stand for that constitutes much of my patriotism, or pride in being an American, and desire to make it a better place for those who are fighting for it to come back to.
Yesterday, en route to Boise, ID, I climbed up and over Freeze Out Hill. At the scenic viewpoint, a memorial had been built and a flag was flying, all dedicated to those lost and those serving in the wake of 9/11. I'm not exactly sure why that location had been selected for such a memorial, but it was there, and looking out, stretching as far and wide as the eyes could see, was a beautiful American landscape. That explained enough for me.
...to be continued...