On Patriotism

Published: July 5, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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After losing all four limbs to a roadside bomb on Easter Sunday 2009, U.S. Army infantryman Brendan Marrocco doesn’t even come close to showing the kind of emotional cracks to his confidence many others would surely face, including me.

To look at photos of Marrocco, 23 during his year-long rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is to witness a strength of character and a tenacity for life that is both indomitable and inspiring. Since the first of both wars began in 2001, 988 service members have lost limbs in combat-related injuries. Marrocco is only the second quadruple amputee.

Looking at his website and reading about the intense level of rehab Marrocco has devoted himself to over the last year, I kept wondering what he thinks when he turns on the news, watches protestors, or listens to pundits rant, not only about the war, but the multitude of issues that confront the country. I’m hoping he doesn’t watch any of it.

I wonder what Marrocco’s reaction would be to self-proclaimed “America’s Truth Detector” Rush Limbaugh’s statement (June 23, 2010) that Obama is “the first president in history – to my knowledge – who actually wants his nation to fail.”

Or when Glenn Beck warned on Fox News (June 10, 2010) that “the summer of rage is about to begin.”

“In most communities,” President Dwight Eisenhower said, “it is illegal to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims?”

I’m concerned when I hear a gathering of doomsayers and gun-toting rageaholics loudly proclaim “their rights” while, at the same time, ignore their responsibilities.

The democracy I live in should be about respectful, responsible speech, not arrogant, polarizing demagoguery. Sadly, there will always be those who favor fear over faith, choose unreason over common sense. It is their right to do so. However, it is neither admirable nor ethical to try to influence millions through misinformation, innuendo and lies under the guise of patriotism.

“Outrage is easy, cheap and oversold,” former New York Governor Mario Cuomo wrote in his 1995 book Reason to Believe. “The nation needs less anger and more thoughtful reflection, less shouting and more listening, less dissembling and more honesty.

“In analyzing the issues, we need to remember there is a place for ideology, but it is not first place. First place goes to good sense, no matter what political badge it happens to be wearing at the moment. Sometimes that’s common sense… other times it may mean uncommon sense. We need to get beyond the beguiling simplistics and sound bites, blow away the blue smoke, take down the political mirrors, and be willing to accept the truth when we find it.”

All of us could use a lot less noise, smoke and mirrors, and a lot more thoughtful deliberation – if for no other reason than to honor the sacrifice of people like Brendan Marrocco.

Patriotism doesn’t mean that we blindly support every policy elected officials put forth. It means that we should act in a responsible and respectful manner regardless on which side of the political issue we stand.

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