Tonawanda News

May 31, 2013

LEFFLER: Too much of a good thing is scary

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — In my opinion, I’m a good citizen. I think America is a great country and I feel lucky to have been born here. I love fireworks and draught beer and apple pie. And the sight of the American flag swells me with pride.

But … there comes a point where patriotism becomes nationalism. And that scares the heck out of me.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with waving the American flag and cheering on our interests and working towards the best for the good ol’ U. S. of A. But wrapping yourself in it and shaming others for not doing so isn’t the least bit patriotic. In fact, it’s downright wrong.

This is a great country that we live in. And we do a lot of great things for ourselves and the rest of the world. We should revel in that and shout from the rooftops the great things that we do. We should all be proud of our endeavors in fighting world hunger and poverty. We should be ecstatic over our scientific accomplishments that have helped all of humanity.

Unfortunately, however, I find that we tend to rally around the wrong things. We rally around war. Death brings us together. Consider the fact that all of our national holidays are centered around war.

This past Sunday I stood along East Avenue in Lockport watching the Memorial Day parade — an annual event put together to honor the soldiers who have given their all in battle to keep this country safe. It was a great reason to be proud to be an American.

I watched as politicians walked by. Police. Firefighters. Girl Scouts. Boy Scouts. Bands. Dance troupes. All grinning from ear to ear, proud to be Americans. There was even a group from Thorold, Ontario — but American by choice … at least for the day.

But alas, too much of a good thing. A sign put me over the edge. Maybe you were there and saw it. Maybe you thought nothing of it. Maybe it irked you, too.

“IF YOU DON’T STAND BEHIND *** OUR TROOPS *** PLEASE STAND IN FRONT OF THEM”

Maybe I’m touchy but here’s my breakdown of the sign: “If you don’t stand behind our troops” is really a way of saying “If you don’t support the war — any war” … and “Please stand in front of them” can easily be construed as “take bullets for them” or “sacrifice yourself.” An uglier interpretation could be “kill yourself.”

I’ve seen variations of this sign as bumper stickers for years. It’s nationalism parading as patriotism. It’s crass on a bumper sticker. It’s disgraceful in a Memorial Day parade.

To those of you thinking I’m overreacting or misinterpreting, please tell me what you think the sign means. I’d love to be wrong. But I don’t think I am.

Scott Leffler supports the troops. That's why he wants them brought home. Today. Send him nasty-grams or notes of agreement on twitter @scottleffler. Or feel free to write a letter to the editor.