patriotism

Hmm, I’m not sure where to start with this – an article in the Washington Post relating a “patriot day” school assembly for 6 and 7 year old kids where they are taught to be American and love their country.

It’s something Em and I talk about a bit and probably think about more – how America shows patriotism compared with how it’s displayed in the UK and many other European countries. I reckon the causes of this are probably because this is a country founded by immigrants and while I don’t want to belittle the US’s involvement in the two World Wars and the sacrifices made by so many people, I don’t think it was hammered quite as hard, in that there weren’t young men from entire communities wiped out, as happened in the major World War I battles, and it didn’t undergo the Blitz, or rationing for years afterwards.

I do appreciate the way that Americans are proud of their country – it gets me a little riled when Brits moan about their country, which is in fact a lot better than they think – and I’m sad that the British flag has become so synonymous with racism that many Brits are uneasy about displaying it. And of course I like living here, or I would move.

But there’s something that makes me kind of uneasy about the whole thing of these patriot days for young kids, especially when it can so easily spill out into the “we’re better than anyone else” realm, not to mention the slightly spooky quote from the 7 year old who says that he would fight for his country. And as is pointed out by a political scientist in the article:

“Loving your country is not something you indoctrinate,” said Jane Junn, a Rutgers University political scientist who has done research on civic education and immigrants. “It’s something a person has to come to themselves.”

This goes through the whole Pledge of Allegiance thing – I think that many Europeans feel uneasy about seeing a classroom full of children pledging themselves to their countries – it can easily smack of indoctrination and the pictures of children in Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia being “programmed”.

It may be a difficult thing for us with Toby: Em and I both want him to be proud of where he’s from and his American childhood and I guess we’re going to have to deal with things like this in the coming few years – potential uneasiness with these types of ceremonies which are so different from what we experienced when we were children. It’ll be an education for all of us.

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