America the Beautiful
A few Saturdays past Jessica and I had the privilege of experiencing our first Presidential Library. Admittedly we went so I could take part in an exhibition they were holding there called America’s Presidents, America’s Pastime. The exhibit displayed memorabilia from the great game of baseball and showed the relationship that our Nation’s leaders had with the game. It was one of the best experienced I have ever had. A letter was written from Eisenhower to Honus Wagner celebrating Wagner’s 80th birthday, a baseball that was signed by both Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and a political cartoon referencing Abe Lincoln’s desire to free slaves while using baseball analogies. It was in a word: awesome.
As awesome as the exhibit was, there was a different take away that Jess and I had while walking through the library. Let me begin by saying everyone has their opinion about the 43rd President's tenure as Commander-in-Chief. People blame him for being incompetent, misspeaking, and finishing daddy’s war and taking out Saddam. On the other side of the aisle, people champion him as almost a messiah figure that could do no wrong. I fall somewhere in the middle. I felt (in the beginning) that we turned Iraq into Afghanistan and were essentially going after the wrong people. Placing our men and women who serve our country fearlessly into unnecessary harm. But on the other side of that coin, I felt that Bush was a capable leader. When our backs were forced against the wall, he was there to lead fearlessly into a situation that no one, not even himself, wanted to be in; yet that is where we found ourselves. And his response was necessary and right.
As I sat in an introductory video where President and Mrs. Bush were introducing themselves, explaining their upbringing and how they made decisions while they resided in the White House, I gained a new perspective on Bush’s tenure. I came away from my experience thinking one thing: Bush loved America; and whether you hated him or loved him, you cannot fault him for that.
On September 14, 2001, Bush visited Ground Zero, three days after the attacks on our country. While making a speech to the people gathered around, someone from the crowded shouted out, “We can’t hear you George.” Bush’s response was a perfect summation of the legacy he would leave on the office of President. Bush responded, “Well, I can hear you. These people here can hear you. And I tell you what, the people who knocked down these buildings, they will soon be hearing from all of us.”
America needed to stand up for itself. We were attacked, a war had been declared and just like a playground fight, you either fight back or get the hell beat out of you. Bush was not about to let the nation he loved, the nation he served, the nation he led be bullied or beaten and so he fought back. And, as an American citizen, I’m glad he took action.
I love America, and I have a completely different respect for George W. Bush now. I liked when he was in office, but now, fourteen years later I can easily say that I deeply respect him. There is one reason that I can say that: Patriotism. I am a Patriot, President Bush is a Patriot and countless others are Patriots.
Today it seems as if that word “patriot” has taken on a negative connotation. Ideas of an ole boy, with a beard to his shoulders, hair pulled back in a ponytail, cut off shirt sleeves and a 4x4 truck, shotgun optional, is what maybe comes to mind when you hear the word patriot. And, if that image did pop in your head, you have proved my point. We have started to use the word in such a way that it is something not to be desired, and almost resisted. As if someone who loves America--in the context we are talking about now--is less than enlightened and not as evolved as the person who despises our values and resists our history.
Admittedly, America’s history is not spotless. No history is. History can be an ugly thing sometimes. History is essentially written by the winners, and sometimes the way in which they won was not necessarily the prettiest. Yet, we are where we are today, good or bad, because of that history. And not to sound Trump-esque but America has won a lot, and that is why it is ingrained in the hearts of millions as the greatest country in the world. And I’m proud of that--damn proud. Bush was proud of this too; he knew the greatness of America and what it stands for, so he championed the fight against terror, stood up for the country he loved and led us.
The funny thing and failure in the logic of the people outspoken about our great land is they’ll protest flags, burn them and stomp on them not realizing (or maybe they do!) they have the right to act that way because of their right to free speech, which is protected by the beautiful stars and stripes they’re stomping on. Therein lies the beauty of this great country. The beauty can be seen in the freedom each individual enjoys which has been endowed to them by the Creator, and protected by the founding principles of this great nation. And on September 11th when those towers were attacked it was because of those principles, thank God we had a leader who would go to bat for us.
On that September day, I was reminded again of how great this country is. A country I’m proud to have been born in and loved for a long time. I will always love America, even through her ups and downs, for the guiding principles she was founded on. Go ahead, call me Patriotic. I’m ok with that.