Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, chapter 6, method 5

When Esolen says that eliminating the patriotic is one way to kill the imagination, he is not talking about blind and dangerous zeal for the Fatherland.  He is talking about recognizing our connection to history, and knowing that the world did not come into being at the moment of our birth; we were born into it at a particular time and in a particular place.  We could have been born at any time, in any place just as my aunt could have been my uncle.  We are here.  We are now.  And this here and now does not exist in isolation.  We honor our ancestry by not forgetting it, whether it was good or bad, or as is most likely, both.  This is loyalty that recognizes flaws, and loves enough to repent and forgive and work toward something better.

For me this means that I retell the story of Grandma throwing the Thanksgiving turkey at her rotten husband.  It means I smile to know that I crochet because of the long line of women who have passed this skill to me.  It means that the crucifix that stands stark against the wall on the mantle shelf belongs to this family and this house where my husband was a child.  It means that old photographs and old things have a place here.  My children are named for people we have loved and still remember.  I tell my children about the great cloud of witnesses by which we are surrounded.  I am a bard, a historian, a keeper of memories, a singer of songs, a homemaker.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

a place of honor for family keepsakes

I love my country, I do.  I love the bigness, the diversity, the natural beauty and the busy cities.  I love the people (mostly).  I love our outspoken nature.  I love our freedoms.  I love the fact that this is home.  I get misty at the little Memorial Day parade in my town, watching the veterans and scouts, the church congregations and marching bands, the volunteer fire department displaying their newly shined trucks.  I teach my kids to pay attention, to smile and wave as I whisper to them how each of these people serves our community and our nation.  I tell them to hush and listen as the Lutheran pastor offers a prayer in front of the Catholic church because that’s where the “square” is.  I listen carefully to see if he prays in Jesus name.  He does.  I teach them to place their hands over their hearts as we salute the flag and recite the Pledge, though I wonder if it is fair for me to ask them to make a vow they don’t understand.  And I hum this prayer.  “America!  America!  God mend thine every flaw.  Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”

I didn’t always feel this way.  I used to be ashamed whenever those odd feelings of pride, love and loyalty for my country would well up, unbidden, as if I were too smart for those feelings. After all, every intelligent person knows that the United States of America is a global criminal.  On the beautiful blue Tuesday that was September 11, 2001, I was working in midtown Manhattan.  The patriotism that became obvious following that day, in the most sophisticated of Americans, was something which took me by surprise.  The skyscraper in which my company had its primary office, installed a huge American flag in the relatively tiny lobby.  I remember that it made me uncomfortable.  My boss said that she knew other people who had expressed similar feelings of uneasiness and she was curious why I felt the way I did.  I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know.  It just seems like patriotism is personal, like religion.  This is a place of business and I would as soon put a cross in the lobby as a flag.”  That conversation led me on to think, think, think about what I meant by the word personal and how something that had such far-reaching implications as patriotism and religion could be personal.  The ideas a person believes affect the way she lives her life including her life in the public realm, so how could they be only personal?  The answer is that there is a difference between “personal” and “private.”  Yes, they are personal feelings and beliefs, but they are about as private as body odor.  Spread the stink.

Random thoughts:

  • I found shades of Salatin in Esolen’s condemnation of “thinking globally.”
  • I wonder if it is odd that it is we Americans, with our relatively short history, who find history so grounding and necessary.

Cindy at Ordo Amoris is hosting a book club for Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen, Ph.D.


15 thoughts on “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, chapter 6, method 5

  1. Dana says:

    *Spread the stink* giggle. Love it!!

    And I appreciate the distinction between loving one’s country and blind affliation to the Vaterland. There must be some Biblical basis to Esolen’s admonitions, as I recall the way all the tribes of Israel were commanded to line up (gather) around the tabernacle under their respective banners (flags).

    • Mystie says:

      This is an excellent meditation on the theme!

      There are other patriotisms, connections to the past, besides love of your country (and I liked how Esolen made it about one’s hometown, also). America didn’t descend ex nihilo from the clouds — our history is traced through England’s. Also, we have a church and Christian heritage that transcends nation. We are part of a line all the way back to Adam — our main lesson in Bible is “These are your people!” In Circle Time, instead of the Pledge, we recite the Apostle’s Creed — not because we aren’t patriotic, but because that is our most important loyalty.

    • sara says:

      Dana, Yep, he was definitely pointing to Judeo-Christian history. I couldn’t help thinking about how the Israelites were commanded to teach their history, as well as the law, to their children.

      Mystie, Is that what it is – a meditation? Because I wasn’t sure myself. 😉 My oldest is just learning the Apostles’ Creed this term. I hear ya about greater loyalty.

  2. Cindy says:

    I love the way we learn the big picture of history though the trails of people who loved their place. Their love for their own place only increases my ability to love my own place, it is not a threat.

  3. Brandy @ Afterthoughts says:

    I love your description of your place, with a Memorial Day parade and all. Esolen talks like so much of the good is in the past–boys playing games in the streets, children hearing fairy tales, towns celebrating their local heroes–and I keep wanting to say that it’s not! There are still many of us raising our children in ways that at least resemble the old ways, and there are still many towns and small cities with parades and celebrations.

    Though I will say I think a town band is in the past where I am from. We had one growing up, though. They played big band jazz and marching songs. It was lots of fun.

    • sara says:

      Brandy, I know, every time I read him lamenting the passing of his small town upbringing, I think, “I think I live there!” In fact, I wrote as much in the margins of the book. (Yes, I’m a margin-writer.)

      I’m not even in a small country place, just a suburb of NYC. I think one thing that makes it work is the fact that we have sidewalks. You wouldn’t believe the number of towns around here that don’t have them.

  4. Debra says:

    Sara, thanks for this meditation on patriotism. I think that it is important to know where we come from if we hope to build a solid future because of the importance of the present as a connection between the past and future. I love hearing about your celebrations.

  5. dawn says:

    Sara, this was very moving and enlightening. Thank you for sharing your story. I particularly was encouraged by your description of the mother as a keeper of history for her family.

    My grandma was in the Green Springs Community Band when I was growing up. That’s where I learned a lot of patriotic music (Service songs) and folk music. We don’t have a community band, but we do have a local symphony though we’re only half an hour or so from a professional Symphony.

  6. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings says:

    I’m loving this series you are doing. Finally got around to tracking down the ISBN for this book and putting it on my wish list at paperbackswap.com. I think this is my favorite chapter/method commentary yet from you so far.

    Miss talking to you regularly, kiddo. Things stupendously chaotic here. Wouldn’t know where to begin to get you updated. Short version? Mike left for the new job in IL a few days after Cmas but we’re still here in MI hoping to join him ASAP cuz this living apart thing really s@#ks. LOL

    Hugs to your babies. *mwah, mwah* And to you.

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