Franke: A Health Checkup for Patriotism

July 7, 2021

by Mark Franke

Having passed three patriotic observances — Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day — provides an opportune moment to reflect on the status of patriotism here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

What is its status? That depends on whom you ask, where you look and at what you look.

If one spends the day in front of the television watching national news channels, one can’t help but conclude patriotism is dead or in hiding. The talking heads, apparently in some kind of competition for the most extreme statement trophy, will leave your mental health in a witch’s brew of “gloom, despair and agony” and “deep, dark depression; excessive misery” to quote song lyrics from the down-home philosophers of the 1970s hit TV show “Hee Haw.”

A recent book, “Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America’s Founders” by Dennis Rasmussen, argues for just such a failed ending for our republic based on what the author saw as the pessimism expressed by most of the Founding Fathers in our nation’s early years. If one buys into Rasmussen’s premise, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton all despaired of the new constitutional republic’s ultimate fate. (He does note that Madison was the optimist in the group.) Yet here we are, 245 years later and still kicking.

But kicking how? What we see on TV and in sports stadiums are professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, demands for Old Glory to be replaced with something appropriately woke, the asinine 1619 Project pushed by what used to be considered the newspaper of record, and on and on. Even the Statue of Liberty is now under attack. Is our nation on the brink of a self-ignited implosion? Yes, if your only perspective is cable news or national newspapers. It was a good run for the USA but it must be over . . . and deservedly so.

Not so fast, at least if we refocus our perspective right here in Indiana. This is what I heard and saw over the past weekend.

I counted 72 American flags flying on my short cul-de-sac, not counting red, white and blue bunting and ribbons nor the U.S. Army flag flown by my veteran neighbor. There were plenty more throughout my addition.

My wife and I attended our minor league baseball team’s annual Fourth of July home game in downtown Fort Wayne, a sellout as always. The stadium provides the best seats for the city’s fireworks display, with their launching being carefully coordinated with the end of the baseball game. The home team TinCaps lost but that didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm. There was a stirring tribute to military personnel and veterans in attendance. And, of course, nearly everyone wore red, white and blue.

People seemed to be in good moods everywhere this weekend, even those working in retail outlets. Were they extra friendly due to the holiday or was I just looking for the good in my fellow man? Either way, it’s a plus for patriotism.

The number of personal fireworks displays all over town was stunning. How much money did these people spend to provide a show for their friends and neighbors? Even though a modicum of restraint would have been welcome, especially during the week leading up to the Fourth and after midnight on Independence Day proper, I would rather hear all the fireworks than face a community that just doesn’t care about celebrating our independence.

One of the most divisive issues today is immigration. I have an opinion for the long-term solution to this but won’t presume to offer it here. Instead, I would rather think about why these millions have risked so much to come here, whether legally or illegally. Could it be that America offers more liberty, more economic freedom, more personal safety, a higher standard of living and so forth than wherever they used to call home? Isn’t this attestation of America’s continuing to be that city on a hill dreamed of by the early European settlers? I can’t but conclude that “these huddled masses” are indeed “yearning to breathe free” and it’s the United States that best can deliver on this promise.

I’m no doctor and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night but I will give a mental-health prescription anyway. Pull the plug on your cable TV even if only for one day. Don’t get into any political discussions with anyone, even those with whom you know you agree. Smile at everyone you meet. Think only good thoughts about others and your own situation. Be thankful you live here and not where your immigrant ancestors did.

Maybe I just moved Thanksgiving Day into July. And maybe that holiday ought to be celebrated monthly. It can be, and it doesn’t take an act of Congress or a presidential declaration for all us to do so.

God bless America!

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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