LETTER: Too diverse for one-size-fits-all patriotism?

To the editor:

An editorial in the Sept. 12 RCDJ, re: Duke University’s “Commission on Sanitizing History” was spot on. The parallel controversies stemming from public memorials, and from professional athletes who elect quiet protest during their games’ national anthem, are interesting.

Reduced to their physical components, monuments and flags are merely carved stone or metal or pieces of dyed cloth. Our national anthem is words set to an old English drinking song. Their meanings are our beliefs, and the emotional investments of our minds and hearts.

Our nation once valued tolerance, a concept long associated with liberals and progressives, but has fallen by the wayside among too many of the political Left. I’m not sure how far it still extends among the Right. Just visit too many college campuses upon the arrival of a controversial speaker.

Has our country grown too big and diverse for one-size-fits-all patriotism? A Colin Kaepernick, say, may not envision his country exactly as many of us do. Could his protest be his expression of patriotism?

Our history is too rich and complicated to sanitize all but the purest of memorials. The Durham monument vandals of Aug. 14 may as well have traveled a few miles and toppled everything on a campus that bore the “Duke” name. A monument may be your symbol of oppression, while it may be another’s cherished ancestor. Either way, it can educate.

Small-minded intolerance would erase just, memorialized contributions of imperfect historical figures, and an opportunity to teach. It would, similarly, deny sports enthusiasts many chances to marvel at the talents of a Kaepernick, while making economic martyrs of him and his ilk.

Surely we are big enough to rediscover the best of our national values, and the “kinder, gentler America.”

Douglas Smith