WHO IS A PATRIOT?

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BY JOELLEN COLLINS

JoEllen Collins—a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley—is a teacher, writer, fabric artist, choir member and unabashedly proud grandma known as “Bibi Jo.”

I’m sure most American citizens got sick and tired of the cliched and jingoistic political rhetoric during this very long prelude to the midterm elections. Many greeted the results with either glee or dismay.

I had a set of mixed feelings during this election process unlike those in my very long life. My relief at the absence of our oversaturated political campaigns was accompanied by a blessed surprise, for the first time, that the voting process was relatively peaceful. I had never had to consider violence as an undercurrent.

Nonetheless, I cast my ballot in person on Election Day and felt a familiar sensation of pride at the right to vote in my country, even in these uncertain circumstances. The very first time I ever voted initiated the same result of thankfulness at being given the chance to participate in my country by voting.

I am, nonetheless, terrified by the recent attacks on our democracy and still very much wary of many of the events in our recent political and governmental institutions. I can’t begin to understand the nasty language promulgated in omnipresent campaign ads on TV. The most prominent were financed by some wealthy enough to pay for an overwhelming glut of reminders of the lack of civility that seems ever present.

I have experienced a very personal gap in a family relationship with someone who continues to spout negative diatribes against my political choices and positions. As a woman who is striving to surround myself whenever possible with positive and civil people and environments, I am bewildered by how to react.

Actually, I abhor all the violence and sadness I see in the nonpolitical world as well, adding fear for my grandchildren’s safety at school, monitoring Halloween candy to avoid fentanyl-infused treats, the plethora of nasty language and intimidation on the internet, and the rudeness of disgruntled drivers and shoppers. I have bewailed the lack of civility before, but now I find this use of angry words way more prevalent. The recent forays around town by a man in a truck with flags and obscene language about Biden and his supporters is anathema to me, for example.

So what is happening to my sense of patriotism? As flawed and bullish as the U.S. may be, I am still glad I was born and raised here, I still thrill at being able to vote, I still defend my country even when I am ashamed of some of its actions. There are other countries, of course, that seem to be behaving more civilly than are the differing people in our vast territory of economic and cultural differences. I don’t excuse the sickness inherent in or the violence espoused by many of our voters, but I harbor a belief that goodness will eventually prevail.

I guess I am still a patriot, though a bit less naïve about the worldwide and, yes, American, proclivity to be more warlike than pacific. I hope I continue to love my country, flawed as it may be.

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