Flying your own flag
Patriotism is as individual as personalities
When Bill May was in junior high school in Steamboat Springs during World War II, he thought going to war was an obligation to the country not a job.
“A lot of older kids were dropping out to go into the service,” May said. “I was surprised to see that military personnel were paid. I thought it was just something you owed to your country.”
With the U.S. war on terrorism having just begun overseas, people who lived through previous wars are reminiscing of the time when rationing materials and boosting patriotism was imperative to the American way of life.
“We’ve had a considerable lack of patriotism in this period in between wars,” May said. “Now, we’re seeing a lot more than expected.”
But has patriotism changed for Americans due to the change of time and circumstances?
With time to analyze previous wars, conflicts and administrative decisions in the United States, younger generations may have a more skeptical view of government policies and decisions than those who lived through previous wars.
Diane Mitsch Bush, professor of social sciences at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, said younger generations have been able to see all the sides and study political issues.
“Patriotism may mean different things to different people,” Mitsch Bush said. “To me, it’s a love of the country but recognizing it’s not perfect.”
With men and women serving the country in various military branches, patriotism in America continues to rise through slogans, advertisements and visions of other nations overseas.
For those who did not or will not go to battle, the media perspective is contemplative for Mitsch Bush.
“The press can be more effective in terms of showing the whole picture, or it can really distort,” said Mitsch Bush, adding distortion is never the media’s intent.
“Because of the change in technology, we’re seeing war that looks like fireworks and that’s not what war is like on the ground.”
But for those who did serve in the military during war, the vision is quite different.
“You can’t visualize how horrible war is. We had to defend our freedom, our country,” May said. “We can’t put up with terrorism. I’m thankful to see our administration taking a firm stand.”
May served in the Occupational Services during the Korean conflict as an Army medic from 1952 to 1953. From 1953 to 1960 he served as an infantry officer with the active Army Reserve stationed in Steamboat.
May, 73, said it bothers him nowadays that men and boys do not remove their hats when they see an American flag. It bothers his wife, Cynthia, also. Although she doesn’t blame anyone in particular for the ignorance of young people, she does blame complacency.
“When I see the flag hanging, it looks so beautiful. It stirs (my) heart,” Cynthia said, “because it’s my country. We’re still the best country there is with the most freedoms.”
Safety is not guaranteed in this country, she said. When a problem arises, people need to think of the best ways to solve it.
May said conserving gas, sugar, cars and shoes during wartime was common for people, and although it wouldn’t hurt anyone nowadays to do that, the Mays said it’s not necessarily detrimental.
“This is a different kind of war. It may take years,” May said.
Mitsch Bush said being patriotic should not have to mean giving up our Constitutional rights. She said she is considerably weary of the USA Patriotism Act that could be signed Friday allowing the government to make it easier to use wiretaps.
“I grew up when the FBI was trying to claim Martin Luther King as a communist,” Mitsch Bush said.
During the Red Scare in America, anyone who wasn’t patriotic was considered a communist.
Mitsch Bush said she hopes the effects of the current terrorist attacks don’t hinder rights such as the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth amendments.
“We love the U.S. because we have those rights. It’s the best country on the planet because of those freedoms,” Mitsch Bush said.
Younger generations are now forming opinions and receiving much of their knowledge about the current war because of various media shows.
Reana Mestan, a freshman at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus, said she watches many political shows, and although they may be tainted with opinionated hosts, it allows her to form her own view.
“(The media) has helped boost patriotism because it shows what’s going on across the nation. (Various shows) allow us to take a stand either way,” Mestan said about being able to debate about issues.
And because younger generations have had the opportunity to study and debate about the issues during war, she said she thinks it makes us not as na.
Mestan said she thinks it’s good to see patriotism among a generation who hasn’t seen war before because it means the nation stands for the same ideas.
Mestan is a conservative and said she thinks President Bush should be commended for his efforts on taking a stand and trying to get to the root of the problem.
“There’s nothing that comes out of (patriotism). It doesn’t represent anything but it’s brought us together,” 18-year-old Mestan said.
“Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we’re not ready to take action.”
Tom Gangel, program director at Steamboat Mental Health, said in times of crisis, people tend to pull together because of the natural psychology of humans.
“They have a sense of belongingness. That’s what’s pushing people together,” Gangel said.
Gangel said a therapist friend said he noticed a decline in patients since the war. Gangel said that might be because people say, “My life’s not as bad as some.”
However, for the deeply mentally ill patients, Gangel said war has affected them dramatically.
“We have a common goal. To me, that’s what patriotism is about,” Gangel said. “It’s not necessarily about war, but seeing the community pull together to do what they need to do.”
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