There Is No Cat

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Friday, July 5, 2002

My patriotism

Lots of stuff about patriotism around Blogistan the past few days (and I don't even look at the warbloggers). Not that that's surprising, given what's happened over the past year. I've always had an ambivalent attitude about it. I feel vaguely uncomfortable about the flag, and resent having it shoved in my face or down my throat. I never liked pledging allegiance to the flag, although pledging it to the republic for which it stood was fine by me (please keep God out of it, though). Whenever I hear Sousa, I start singing along: "Be kind to your web footed friends / For a duck may be somebody's mother...." The symbols of patriotism just plain don't do anything for me.

But last autumn, in the wake of September 11, one person on a mailing list I subscribe to started advocating that licenses be required to participate in the net, and made the claim that "Freedom of Speech and of the Press is one thing, freedom to offend the majority is sickening."

I was appalled. I was sickened. I was pissed. And I let loose with both barrels.

And with that, the roots of my patriotism were exposed. America isn't a flag, or some monuments, or some music. It's an idea, or rather a few ideas that came out of one simple truth, that each human has inherent value. The idea that speech should be regulated, or that offending the majority was grounds for stifling someone, was and is repugnant to me, to the very core of my being, and the fact that my oh-so-patriotic friend was trying to gag people with the flag to shut them up made me furious. Talk about missing the forest for the trees. Speech that offends the majority is exactly what the First Amendment protects. The remedy for bad speech is more speech. And more speech is what I gave him.

The USA is a great country not because we have a bunch of stars and stripes, or because there's a statue in New York harbor, or because we gather together to watch fireworks every year, or whatever other visible manifestations of patriotism you choose to think of. The USA is a great country because of the stuff that's baked into us as we grow up, the idea that every person has boundless opportunities, that each of us is important, that we are free and able to say anything, and that there's no higher power allowed to tell us otherwise. We are important. Our lives mean something. And if America doesn't always live up to those ideals, we're free to call ourselves on it. Some times I think we miss this in our zeal for the physical manifestations.

So forgive me if I don't join you in waving the flag. I'm just expressing my love of country in my own sweet way.

Posted at 9:29 PM

Comments

Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

I know exactly how you feel. I experienced something over the weekend that made me uncomfortable with this patriotic paranoia gripping the country. It's made me even more skeptical these days...

Posted by Joe at 9:13 AM, July 8, 2002 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


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[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

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