Patriotism is a funny thing.
We were dating and it was The Native’s inaugural trip to America. For a month I introduced him to family and friends. For a month I became a tourist in my hometown as we ate hotdogs at baseball games and donned jerseys and cheered the local NFL team. We ate our way through every local restaurant and fast food joint that is not accessible when you live across the pond. And with fresh eyes that had never experienced the quirks and traditions of American culture, he would ask me questions about where I’m from and we would discuss and surmise on the whys, (“Why are there so many restaurants? Why are there so many cars on the road all of the time? Why do shop assistants speak to you for 10 minutes even when you aren’t buying something?”). We would spend many car journeys and nights appreciating and laughing at what makes America America. Because even the small things, even the restaurants say something about a culture.
He had heard about it, but the reality still surprised him. There were just so many flags. Flags in neighbour’s front yards, flags waving above local businesses, flags in churches. In different places, in different sizes, but all saying something about America and her people – an obvious display of pride in her. And while everyone may not agree, it is hard to deny that Americans, on the whole, are patriotic. We love being American. But that was a “Why?” I couldn’t exactly answer. What has led America to a point of having such a sense of national pride? Is it simply what it stood for (and still does stand for to so many)? Is it the optimism that comes with centuries of immigrants flocking to her shores in search of opportunity? Or is it something that is just instilled in us? Is it saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every school day or singing the National Anthem before every sporting event can officially begin?
This summer has been interesting in the UK. There has been The Queens’ Diamond Jubilee, the build up and anticipation of London 2012, and now a British male in the Wimbledon final for the first time in over 70 years. There has been something different about this summer. There has been something so atmospheric. I swear if The Duchess of Cambridge gets pregnant this year the country will implode. And I have felt patriotic – for Britain. I have loved living here and have appreciated the history of and pride in being a part of the UK. But it feels….unusual.
Yes, there are Union Jacks everywhere, but very soon they will be packed away. They won’t be hanging from windows or strung across town centres. The atmosphere will die and life will return to normal. The Native and I talk about it and he assures me that Brits are patriotic, just not in a flag-pole erecting, National Anthem singing, Britain or Die kind of way. Still, it is really hard for me to find traces of patriotism here normally. I feel like I have to pull back layers of cynicism and sarcasm before I do see that Britons really do love their country and sometimes I wonder if they love it at all.
So, tell me – Why do you think Americans are so overtly patriotic? And if Britons are patriotic, how? If not, why not?