Thinking in unison

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. … It is absolutely ridiculous. Why would you have transgender people talking to kids?”

With those three sentences Sparks Mayor Ron Smith got his 15 minutes of fame, and also gave more publicity to Drag Queen Story Hour at the Sparks branch library. So perhaps, given the success of the story hour, that’s all that needs to be said. But we’re going to say a little more about busybodies like Smith anyway.

This is the United States of America. People do not need to tell their governments why they are doing things. Government—even tiny ones like Sparks—needs to tell why they want to stop people from doing what they want to do—and the reasons better be darned good. Why would people take their children to sit on the laps of men dressed as an imaginary character to recite their holiday hopes? Is it any business of government?

Dale Hill, also of Sparks, wrote in a July 17 letter to the editor of the Reno Gazette Journal, “We struggled through Colin Kaepernick’s show of disdain for our flag and anthem. … And if that is not enough, we now have Megan Rapinoe, the captain of our victorious U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, tell us the United States is not great and never was great. And she, like Kaepernick, is quick to publicly demonstrate her hatred of our flag and our anthem.” Where do people like Smith, Hill and Donald Trump get the idea that in a free society all must think alike—or like them?

Kaepernick and Rapinoe are patriots. They criticize government, not country. And what makes them patriots is that they challenge our government and our people not to hide behind fabric and song lyrics but to show real patriotism by demanding that life be better for all of us. Toby Keith, in his visit last month to Sparks, put up a big sign that said “TOBY KEITH: A real patriot.” One does not become a patriot by pronouncing oneself so. One does it by calling our government to better and higher things than paying its women poorly and killing its citizens unnecessarily.

Rapinoe did not say what Hall claimed. What she said, when asked if she had a message for Donald Trump, was this, about his “Make America Great Again” slogan: “I think that you are harking back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people. Maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world, and I think that we have a responsibility, each and every one of us. You have an incredible responsibility as, you know, the chief of this country, to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.”

Patriotism is not one-size-fits-all. If people think different things than Ron Smith, Dale Hall and Donald Trump, that is patriotism, too.

Stephen Crane:

“Think as I think,” said a man, “Or you are abominably wicked; You are a toad.” And after I had thought of it, I said, “I will, then, be a toad.”