The twelfth eleven and thoughts

On this twelfth anniversary of 9/11, it seems an appropriate time to think about patriotism, because re-watching the devastation reinvigorates most of our inner-patriots.

People share with one another where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, and collectively we are brought together by the striking commonalities throughout the stories. It’s hard not to love a country that rallies in the face of such hardship. And while I too am beaming with pride, I am cautious.

For me, and for, I believe, most people, the anniversary of 9/11 is a somber day, but also an important day to consider how patriotism can be both productive and unproductive. But for some, it’s an excuse to take nationalism to a hateful extreme.

It’s not about being pro-war or anti-war, though according to USA Today, only about three in 10 people surveyed do support the Afghanistan War. The day is more about finding a proper outlet for the patriotism you’re feeling and not letting it go to waste.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that on the unproductive side of the spectrum (in fact, way, way off the scale on the unproductive side) sits patriotism that involves anti-Islamic sentiments. It’s really simple; there’s just no excuse for it.

This lumping together of the world’s second most practiced religion is a huge talking point on the subject of post-9/11 nationalism. And while it has died down, at least from what I’ve noticed, it’s still an important piece of the puzzle, because it illustrates the extremes people will go to with intense nationalism as their guide.

Also, not productive is the belief that America can do no wrong — that America can only have wrong done to it. The country is far from perfect, and that’s not a party-line statement.

Be thoughtful of the country’s far-reaching impact — especially as a decision for what should be (or should not be) done in Syria looms in the near future.

What is productive, though, is identifying your American privilege and doing something with it. People hear this kind of rhetoric all the time around voting season, but really, it’s true all the time: Get out and vote.

Democracy is a great thing, and the Bill of Rights has had an impact that extends far beyond American borders. Be proud of that if it’s something that has some importance to you. Support the troops if you’re so inclined; let the national anthem fill you to the brim with patriotism; do something productive.

But don’t, for a second, think that any of that makes America fundamentally better than another country. Nor does it make the lives of Americans more important than those living elsewhere.

To be clear, I consider myself to be patriotic; I love America, and for the most part, I trust its legal system. I also recognize how privileged I am simply because I was born here.

Still, though, it’s not hard to imagine how innocent-enough patriotism can turn into rabid, frothing nationalism; we’ve all seen it happen before. And so I am cautious.

I think this day is a reminder of what rabid nationalism can look like — because that’s a lot of what was behind the attacks. Making the country more tolerant and mindful is the best kind of memorial we can extend to those affected by 9/11, and that’s what we all want.