Patriotism. What do I really think of it? I have thought it to be hypocrisy, at times. I have thought it was some sort of brain-washing. Flag wavers often appear to me to be hiding some larceny behind that flag. Suspicious? You bet. Jaded? Yup.
Yet, I am a Patriot when it comes right down to it. I will defend America anytime someone slams it. I will still maintain, despite my strong disagreements with how things are done, that it is the Best Country. The experiment that began in 1775 is still evolving, but I wouldn’t trade our Freedom to think and speak our minds for any other ideology.
Why do I get a lump in my throat when I hear the “Star Spangled Banner” played? It’s not an easy song to sing, and it speaks of my least favorite topic: War. Nonetheless, whenever it is played, I feel an old stirring that makes me want to stop and be silent, and to pay my respects to all those who have given their lives to defend this place.
National Anthems are strange things. They survive despite the awkwardness of their melodies and lyrics. They become embedded in the consciousness of their countrymen. They start to represent people and places and things we hold dear. We are taught to sing these songs long before they really hold meaning for us. Then, they become meaningful because we sang them.
Last night, as the horrific events unfolded in Paris, I was stunned. Like most of the World, I wanted the outcome to not be what we have come to expect. I watched and waited. I held it together, until there was a montage of photos and videos…and then, there they were…dozens of French people walking together singing La Marseillaise. Then I broke down in tears. Tears for the loss, the anguish, and the grief that will be felt by thousands.
The French National Anthem is a stirring and beautiful song. It is about invaders trying to conquer, and about rising up against those who would do harm. Like our own national song does for Americans, it binds together the history and the memories of the French people. I think now that these songs are more important than I realized. They link us to our families, our friends, our dreams, our hopes, and our sometimes sad realities. They remind us of our values, and the things we would be willing to fight for.
The sight and sound of those French citizens singing last night was something I won’t forget. The brave voices in that dark, dark night.