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Making Civics Real Workshop 5: Patriotism & Foreign Policy  
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Workshop 5

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Student Perspectives: Patriotism

Alex: I find [patriotism] to be a certain love or devotion one has to one’s surroundings or one’s culture. It is something that they can have pride in and just really love.

David: Patriotism can either lead to confusion or it can lead to a lot of qualities [and] successes that can drive a country. Everybody has a different definition of patriotism. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned. Before I got into civics, I really didn’t care too much about America. I went through U.S. history, but my class was just a class. We were learning from the book. We really didn’t talk about how it affected people. We’re not talking about a country that’s made up of the government. We’re talking about a country that’s made up of people. It gave me an appreciation for all people in America.

Eugenia: I am learning about patriotism. Before this class, I really didn’t know too much about it. I was always anti-patriotism. I didn’t agree with the actions that were being taken by Americans over in Afghanistan but I am learning that it goes a little deeper than that . . . I am getting more understanding, so it’s not just the terms, it’s not just about waving a flag, it’s not just about wearing Army fatigues and joining the service. It’s a little more grounded as to what you believe and what you don’t believe.

When the September [2001 terrorist attacks] thing happened, I was very angry every time I saw a flag. I was very offended at individuals. I didn’t like all of the addresses that were made, and I didn’t like all of the marathons, and I really put myself in a shell when that happened. I lost my aunt in the September 11th ordeal. Every time someone offered condolences, I just didn’t like it. I thought the flag was ultimate disrespect for me and my family. We didn’t fly any flags. I don’t believe that [the flag is] a symbol of freedom. This is the same flag that they flew when we had slavery, when we had terrorists. This is the flag that has flown over many chests and caskets of people who died for something they didn’t believe in. This was not freedom. Equal opportunity has never existed, nor do I think that it will ever exist. It’s not a proud symbol of courage. I think it’s a symbol of cowardice. I think we fly the flag when we are scared, and when we show an outrageous amount of pride, that just turns into arrogance. I don’t believe in killing. I don’t think that we should send bombs and all sorts of things like that into Afghanistan, but this is done, and when I lose family members that help, they give us a flag. It doesn’t help me. It’s not soothing.

[When my aunt died on September 11, 2001] I didn’t participate in any candle vigils. I was just very angry and very anti-American. I didn’t watch the news any more. I did a lot of writing and meditating, but all of the addresses made by the President saying that we are going to declare war and we are going to continue and if you are not for us you are against us, that was just so frustrating to me. So I became very isolated from school, from teachers, from friends, from family. That was my biggest tiff with America, but I guess this class really opened me up to understanding what’s really going on and just being patient.

Leo: [We’ve been talking] about foreign policy and how important it is for us [in the] United States to become cultural ambassadors and represent our country well and not break down into the stereotypes that this country is known for. I feel that we try to get people to kind of convert, like a religion, to our government and our ways of living. It's affected me because I have a lot of friends who have different national backgrounds and don't have the opportunity to have what I have because they live overseas. They don't have freedom of religion. They don't have freedom of speech. It makes me think a lot about what I have that a lot of people don't have, and I need to take advantage of that.

The constitution was written back when we were a different type of people. So it's kind of weird to me that we've thrown all this power to Congress now. Back then, people always wanted a greater power to deal with the problems that they had. Now, a lot of people want to be so independent and want to control the government themselves. A lot of people don't think that the constitution really says anything about the United States anymore.

I think the flag is kind of trendy now. It's kind of a symbol of patriotism and pride in one's country, but it's also been torn to shreds by the fashion market [and] by people in general. I remember my mom telling me that her father fought in the war and she knew all the rules and regulations of how to fold the flag and everything--like you can't let it touch the ground. The other day I saw some lady dragging the flag on the ground when she was taking it down from her flag post. I don't think it means as much to us now as it did back then. With September 11th [2001], I think we might have gotten a hint of what it used to mean, but I think it was kind of a new discovery and something that represented a new beginning. Now it's old and it's just America. I don't think that it has the full representation of what it used to be.

Selena: I have a lot of problems with the way people express their patriotism nowadays. After September 11th [2001] everybody just threw up American flags left and right. I can understand if you really feel that way but some people are just doing it to say “I’m patriotic” and they don’t really have any feeling or meaning behind it. My view of patriotism is someone who participates in the democratic process. I feel that we should show patriotism by what we can do for one another. We should show patriotism going out and helping someone or volunteering. You shouldn’t just put up a flag and have that be your only contribution. The people who are fighting this war, they’re the true patriotic people right now. The people who go out of their way to help their fellow man, they’re the true patriots. The other day I was having a discussion with my friend from Turkey and he has a totally different perspective on it. We have so much freedom here. We can say, “I don’t like this country” or burn the American flag. In his country, you can’t do that. You would be sent to prison if you did. He basically told me that people die every day trying to get papers to get into this country and that we should feel appreciative that we’re in this country. I really love this country. I’m thankful that I live here. But that’s not to say that we don’t have a long way to go to be what our forefathers wanted us to be. We need to make it our agenda to be more about global democracy and not try to exploit other countries, not try to exploit other people. Be more about showing human love and kindness instead of just showing patriotism. Patriotism only goes so far in this global world now.

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