Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2001 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Of boys and patriotism -- A FRIEND sent me two pictures of his 8-year-old son, Andy, painting blue lines on a large Go USA mural his classmates were creating. My first response to the pictures was a mix of pride and melancholy. My second response was jealousy.

I am glad that Andy will grow up in an age when there is a resurgence of patriotism. Since September 11, hoisting front porch flags has become as much a part of the morning routine as that first cup of coffee. Flag lapel pins dot suits everywhere and you're a sorry sort these days if you can't belt out lyrics to patriotic tunes with Kate Smith and Lee Greenwood.

Our son grew up in an age when patriotism was viewed with a wary eye. The flag was merely a catchy design Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren experimented with on trendy clothing and over-priced bedding. Standing when the flag passed at parades required too great an effort. Love of country was reserved for nerds, politicians and coots at the VFW.

With the exception of one no-nonsense grade school music teacher, I don't think our son ever sang patriotic songs in public school. When he was in third grade and the Gulf War erupted, an avant garde teacher had children write letters to the president demanding an end to the bombing. Our streets were lined with American flags, but the neighborhood elementary school hallway was lined with the likes of"Der Mr. Prezidnt, We want pease."

In high school, when our son claimed he was one of only two, or three, who would stand for the pledge of allegiance during morning video announcements, I found his claim unbelievable. I asked around and found that the kid was telling it straight. Standing for the pledge was unhip and uncool.

Our son also came of age when the politically correct crowd worked overtime to feminize little boys. Over and over it was drilled into their little male brains, "Don't hit. Don't hit. Don't hit." A fine mantra for maintaining civility among children, but the mantra extended to "don't hit" even for self-defense or to protect another. Hitting was always evil and fighting was always bad. (Would you care to sit in the time-out chair, Osama bin Laden?)

For the past two decades our culture has said being a boy (translation: being physical, restless, active, rambunctious, on the move, climbing, scaling the side of the school in hopes of reaching a dead bat, going fishing and - gasp -- hunting) is bad. Very, very bad. The unspoken problem was that boys wouldn't act like girls .And our solution for many of those little boys who insisted on acting like boys? The fourth R - Ritalin.

As a parent, I launched a one-woman counter-attack to the cultural nonsense by making sure our son understood concepts like freedom, honor and sacrifice. We supplied him with biographies of great Americans, readings on American history and taught him the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty and the preamble to the Constitution.

Was our goal a swaggering youth wrapped in red, white and blue? Never. Our goal was a young adult who could grasp the splendor of this nation, the magnificence of the Constitution and the cost of freedom.

And now, many of those concepts are returning to the mainstream in mass. When my friend's little boy stands for the pledge, his classmates stand alongside him.

Something besides death and destruction occurred when the War on Terror commenced. Among the debris, the smoke, the rubble and the fear, patriotism and love of country were reborn. Welcome back.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman