American Pride

Soon the season of patriotism will be upon us. Memorial Day will be followed shortly by Flag Day and the Fourth of July. Songs of civic glory will cause chests to swell. My children will cringe as always when I burst spontaneously into “America the Beautiful”.

However, you may cringe when I say I am not proud to be American. No, not the liberal “I’m ashamed of all the bad things my country has done” hogwash. But honestly, how can I take pride in an accident (or Providence) of birth? For the record, I’m not proud to be British either. There is no great accomplishment in living in a place long enough to be allowed to pay the government a substantial amount of money for the right to live there whenever I choose and vote.

Most national pride is an attempt to take some measure of credit for someone else’s meritorious actions. I recently heard an American mention to a Brit, “If it wasn’t for us, you’d be speaking German.” It was as if he had led a platoon onto the beaches of Normandy. We all want to be along for the ride. That would be the ride in the ticket-tape parade, not the the ride in amphibious landing craft or the armored personnel carrier.

There is a big difference between pride we assume for ourselves and the pride we have in others. The biblical example of the latter is voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The biblical examples of, and admonitions against, the former are manifold. It was, after all, the first sin.

I am not proud to be an American, but I’m  proud of lot of Americans. I’m thankful for my ancestors who fought  in various conflicts to defend their country. Some fought to stop unjust taxation without representation by Parliament and helped to form this nation. Some had to fight their own countrymen who misunderstood the voluntary compact of the US Constitution by the several sovereign states. They fought for a freedom still misunderstood and mischaracterised.

I’m not proud “we” beat the forces of Nazi Germany. I was not there. I am proud of my uncles and others who did, and I’m not ashamed to shed tears standing amongst the graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Lately I’ve been watching The Pacific mini-series and I’m proud of a lot of men who went through a lot of hardship and experienced dreadful things for a just cause.

I’m proud of men today like Capt. Jared Carter. I’ve known him since he was born and pray for him every day.  He and the soldiers for whom he is responsbile do their duty and serve their country wherever they are sent into harm’s way. My pride in them is not diminished by whether I agree with the policy decisions made by the administration of a Commander-in-Chief who often does not seem to look out for the best interests of the nation and of whom I am frequently less than proud.

During patriotism season we often focus on those in uniform, but I’m proud of a lot of other Americans who may not have assisted others in defending freedom, but have contributed in so many ways to make the United States a better place to live. They are farmers and factory workers, entrepreneurs and executives, and others in doubtless countless aliterative couplets of vocations who have made America great. There have even been  those who arrived from elsewhere and were unwelcomed by those already here because they were from Ireland or Italy,  Manchuria or some other place.

Because I have not achieved being an American though any heroics of my own, I am loathe to put stumbling blocks in front of those who have suffered hardship to also enjoy the American way of life. I am proud of those who have taken risks to bring their families to a place where there is greater opportunity for prosperity, even when the risk is being imprisoned and sent away by those who received those opportunities by accident or Providence. (I’m not sure if the greater shame is on those who believe in random chance or those who don’t.)

On the other hand, I’m not proud of those who have passed legislation to place greater (and often insurmountable) demands on those who would share in a prosperity and freedom not of the legislators’ own making. Yet their legislation is backed by the righteous indignation and incredulity of those who can’t understand why some people would rather live in the shadows and margins of America than in the place where, again by chance or Providence, they were born.

While I will try hard not to be proud, I am very thankful that I was born an American. I have been blessed to live most of my life in a place and under a government, that while far from perfect, is pretty good compared to the regimes under which most of the world’s population live. I’m very thankful to have been born American because otherwise it is more than likely I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be one.

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.