When I was a preteen and yearly teen, I was extremely patriotic. I had stationary that was colored with the original U.S. flag, thirteen stars. I had flag stickers on just about everything I owned. I had more flags around the room than I can count.
Then came Tricky Dick, Richard Nixon. In my later teen years, my patriotism dropped off a little bit. But then came President Carter, and I felt like the U.S. was heading in the right direction again, and my patriotism returned.
I kept that patriotic feeling well into my late twenties, through most of President Reagan’s terms, even though I did not agree with him on most things. But as Iran-Contra unfolded, and the mess in Granada, and the mess in South America, my patriotism waned again. Through President H. W. Bush and the mess in Kuwait and Desert Storm, I felt detached from my country. It was not a place I wanted to live in.
President Clinton arrived, and the economy boomed. While I was quite a fan of Clinton, my patriotism did not arise. I believe he did the right things, and he certainly did a better job with the economy than most presidents had done. But I felt that America’s greatness had faded. We were not walking on the Moon. We were not moving forward with equality or defeating poverty. It seemed our greatness was a thing of the past. We were no longer a leader. We were a follower.
President G. W. Bush certainly did not give any flame to my patriotism. In my opinion, he handled almost everything poorly, from the English language itself, to domestic affairs and to foreign affairs. He seemed more a warmonger than leader. More cut up than politician. He certainly laid no clear plans forward toward a revived greatness. He talked about leading, but gave us nothing to lead with, or to lead toward.
Some would say that 911 made it impossible for him to lead toward outstanding importance, though I saw that sad event as the perfect opportunity to display greatness. Instead it was used to embroil us in war, to cut back on liberties, and enhance the wealthy. Since President Bush number two, the country itself has fallen. Patriotism has given way to bitter hatred. Racism has raised its head even within the government itself. Obstructionism has become the word of the day. Minority groups have tried to put a full stop on progress. The country no longer sought greatness, it no longer looked to lead and create the cutting edge. It became more about maintaining the status quo, or even stepping backward.
Today we celebrated President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. I have to say that lost feeling of patriotism is stirring within me. Despite all the resistance he has met, he has gotten some things done. Health care, while it isn’t exactly what I wanted, it wasn’t exactly what anyone wanted, but it was far more than what was proposed as an alternative which was to do nothing. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, change in the taxation rates, equal rights for women, the ending one of the wars, nothing is perfect, but he did not do nothing either, despite the record-breaking resistance put in front of him.
He has been leading us in the right direction, a direction of equality, a direction of peace, a direction of greatness. He led during a rough period where the U.S. suffered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we even had our credit rating down graded for the first time in history, and yet we are rising above it all. Slowly perhaps, but still we are rising. His plans for his next four years are plans I agree with, changes in immigration, LGBT equality rights, climate change control, getting us out of Afghanistan, and gun control. These are not the lofty goals of putting a human on the Moon, but they are immensely needed goals, and only with these things under some degree of control can this country move forward to do the great things that build and guide the future.
Keep going President Obama. Keep leading us toward those brighter stars of our spirit that President H.W. Bush talked about, but seemed to extinguish. I just might have to pull out a flag once again.