The personal finance website WalletHub recently released its ranking of the “patriotism” of all 50 states.
In an era of toppled statues, kneeling athletes, microaggressions, border wall controversies and globalist agendas, trying to define and quantify patriotism resembles voluntarily crisscrossing a minefield.
We’ve settled for a society where the “melting pot” is less important than “TAXING pot”; but once upon a time, patriotism was easier to recognize. Good Americans knew that true patriots kept a watchful eye on the oddball who planted a tree on Arbor Day. (“Mark my words: he’s planting that poplar just so a communist can lurk behind it someday!”)
Nowadays, greed seems to outweigh civic responsibility. If composer John Philip Sousa were alive today, his FIRST march would be down to the offices of Spotify and Pandora. (“Now, how much will you pay to stream the catalog of songs I’ve been holding out? You’re kidding. I think you know where you can put these 76 trombones...”)
Yes, throngs of townspeople used to be able to belt out the uplifting lyrics “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue” on Independence Day. In 2020 the song would have to be rendered suitable for the colorblind, the deaf, the hoarse and the mathematically challenged. (“After the neutered fireworks display, instead of a singalong, we have a multiracial, non-binary mime attempting to escape from an invisible box we like to call Western Civilization.”)
Luckily, WalletHub had a panel of experts to help it hash out its criteria. (Patriotism experts? Is that even a thing? Do people graduate summa cum laude in watching the Old North Church, with minors in tight lips and remembering the Alamo? Do experts say things like “I’d love to go to the party, but I must scan the skies in case Commissioner Gordon sends up the Patriotism Question Signal”?)
One of the tasks WalletHub charged the experts with was naming the characteristics of a good patriot. But it would be more fun to enumerate the characteristics of a BAD patriot. (Does bad impressions of Christopher Walken insisting, “Needs more Liberty Bell.” Finds a shortcut to Tipperary. Gives until it hurts...his feelings. Rips up his pocket copy of the Constitution while frantically seeking the words “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose...”)
Some of the criteria for ranking states’ patriotism are uncontroversial: highest average number of military enlistees, percentage of veterans per capita, most Peace Corps volunteers per capita, etc. But “highest volunteer rate” sticks in my craw. Not all volunteer work in this great land comes through organized charities. Much of it arrives in spur-of-the-moment gestures, even if they ARE more “showing off” than altruistic. (“You say your boy has a ruptured appendix, Bubba? Let me tie a string to my monster truck. Naw, it ain’t no trouble...”)
I’m also embarrassed that my home state (Tennessee) ranked 48th in the category of “highest percentage of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election.” In our defense, the pollsters were all saying, “Every minute in the voting booth is a minute away from SEC football.” Pollsters, Jack Daniel...potato, potahto…
Anyway, if WalletHub publishes the listing again next year, maybe some of the lower-ranking states will be spurred to improve their score. And maybe old man Jones will finally repurpose that poplar tree as a SCHOOL DESK, to ward off commie nukes.
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”