Patriotism, as simply stated, is the love of one’s country as exemplified by a willingness to work for the good of all and a devotion to its welfare. Lately, the ideas of patriotism and their interconnectedness to food have me fascinated. Eating locally grown foods is a patriotic act as it supports the good of all environmentally, economically and nutritionally. Last week I was interested to read that during WWII it was considered patriotic to make sauerkraut at home. Times were tough, people needed to go back to their roots and everybody had to make due with less. The objective was to support the country.
Patriotism during that time was also exemplified through the art projects of the Post Office Muralists. The idea was to create large-scale art projects that depicted American life. The New Deal program wanted these projects located in post offices because every American town had one, and everybody frequented them. These giant projects were for all to see and to be reminded of our values of hard work (often farming), community and heritage.
The muralists were often emulating the works of Diego Rivera and other Mexican artists who in Mexico were supporting social change and action by depicting some of the harsher aspects of the post-industrial world. New Deal muralists who were chosen, on the other hand, were those who were able to convey the ideals of a peaceful and contented American way of life. They did not show the brutalities of war, industrialization or Manifest Destiny, but instead depicted a glorification of labor and American life through pastoral farming scenes, renditions of American Westward Expansion, and leisure.
Patriotism was again brought to my attention at our annual National Night Out neighborhood potluck. For many of us, the original ideas of NNO are no longer present in our gatherings. We are not a group of neighbors fighting crime and drug dealers, we are instead, celebrating the village around us and it’s inhabitants. I overheard somebody at the party say something to the effect that it “felt patriotic to attend these gatherings.” Interesting.
Now a poem contributing to this theme has given clarity to that which I am patriotic. This land upon which we stand, toil, live, love and eat is that which through our creativity, perserverance, dedication and hard work gives us sustenance. It is to the land that many of us feel patriotic.
Listen to Garrison Keillor read this poem on Writer’s Almanac.
My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.
“Patriotism” by Ellie Schoenfeld, from The Dark Honey. © Clover Valley Press, 2009. Published with permission.
Food shared by neighbors at National Night Out.