On this 7th anniversary of 9/11/01, it is appropriate to reflect on the tragic events of the date and remember the lives lost in the attack. Like those who still remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard on the radio that Japanese planes had bombed Pearl Harbor two generations ago, I've taken some time today to allow a somber break here and there from my routine. This has been dubbed "Patriot Day" because of the groundswell of patriotism that emerged as a result of being attacked from outside forces like we were.
However, I'm alarmed at how this same "patriotism" has, in many cases, created an intolerance for any thoughtful critique some may offer of our nation. Love of country is one thing, but that same love should not translate into vehement shouting-down of differing opinions. I have seen this on television, heard it on radio and witnessed it among friends: patriotism that sometimes results in the stifling of opinions that accomplish any other objective than painting the US government in the best possible light. The political "right" claims not to be questioning the patriotism of the "left," yet implies exactly that with each snide wink or joke. I am politically very conservative, but am at times very displeased with those who hold similar views as me, shedding their civility whenever Lee Greenwood sings "God Bless the U.S.A."
I, myself, grow at times disillusioned with the longevity of the "War on Terror" (lasting nearly twice as long as World War II). Surely our military does things right, but it is because of the civilian leaders over them that we rightly ask if the military are being asked to do the right things. We are admonished to remain patient until victory is achieved, but victory has not been defined in a tangible manner. We are told to support the troops (according to talk radio), but are also told we cannot legitimately do so by desiring their recall. For how many years to come will 9/11 be the legitimate motivation for soldiers fighting in Iraq who were in middle school when 9/11 happened?
On Patriot Day, I reflect on my love of country, and thankfulness for the great priviledges and freedoms we enjoy here. However, on such a day I will not shed my thoughtful critiques of our beloved nation either; nor will I denegrate those who differ significantly in their opinions with me. Patriotism is lovely in how it produces neighborliness, service and a sense of national responsibility. Let us not allow patriotism to turn ugly, by shouting down those who's views differ with our own.