Tonawanda News


July 3, 2011

HAYNES: Patriotic streak showed on July 4 as child

— — I think the Fourth of July is probably one of my mother’s favorite holidays because it gives her an excuse to tell one of the more embarrassing — if a bit charming — stories from my childhood.

Because I’ve gotten to the age where I’m no longer red with embarrassment when even thinking about it, I’ll share. You see, as a very young kid, I went through an overly patriotic streak.

I’m not sure where I got it from; my family members have never been particularly vocal about their love for the country. Not that we hate America or don’t have any pride, we were just never the sort to have bumper stickers or yellow ribbon magnets on our cars.

But as a kid, I had a tendency to have strong moral convictions about certain things as they popped in and out of my head. I boycotted Guns N’ Roses for a long time because they cursed on television during an award show. I similarly stopped listening to Nirvana after Kurt Cobain killed himself, something I just couldn’t wrap my 12-year-old head around.

And when Leon Lett’s infamous fumble lost the Cowboys a touchdown during Super Bowl XXVII — against the Bills no less — because he was hot-dogging, I decided I was no longer a Cowboys fan.

My family always seemed to put up with these little flights of fancy on my part, if sometimes with a smirk and a roll of the eyes. But it was when Independence Day — and sometimes Flag Day — rolled around that my convictions were more than a little annoying.

I was in the second grade when I first started insisting on putting on a little patriotic show in the front yard. Since I have no siblings, that meant my mother and grandmother had to join me if I didn’t want this to be a one-man production. And I never did.

I don’t remember the specific order of events, but it usually involved mounting the American flag on the front of our house, at which point we’d stand in the yard, hands over hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We’d also recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, which I can only guess we just learned during a Texas history unit at school, because I don’t remember ever saying it at any other time in my life.

Then the parade began ... a couple laps around the yard, dressed in red, white and blue, waving small flags and singing every patriotic song I knew. It was always a serious affair.

Why the two of them put up with this, I’ll never know.

This routine continued for a couple of years before I finally hit the age where what my peers thought of me became a real concern.

Somewhere along the line, it became embarrassing to be seen as too patriotic. The stereotype, of course, is that Texans are a bunch of gun-happy conservatives who swing wildly from blind love for their country to wanting to secede from the Union.

I, of course, wanted to steer myself as far away from this generalization as possible, especially when I first moved to Buffalo for college. My college years coincided with George W. Bush’s first term, and it was something along the lines of social suicide — in my circle, at least — to appear as if you even remotely agreed with anything the government did or said during that time.

But when did loving one’s country become synonymous with sympathizing with every war, every law, every social policy our government puts forward? This isn’t a new sentiment, but one that bears repeating, to be a little clichéd about it.

I’m not about to force my family into an organized parade on the front lawn tomorrow while I’m back in Texas for a visit. But maybe it’s time I grew up a little and celebrated all that is great about our country. There’s plenty, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 116.

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