January 08, 2004

Moments of Patriotism

I am not what you would call wildly patriotic.

I am an American, I know I am an American, and I generally don't feel the need to plaster my vehicle and my possessions with the American flag. I don't speak loudly in public (unless I am boozing it up in a pub, then it's all decibels all the time). I don't fly the American flag here in Sweden (most houses have a flagpole, which they run the Swedish flag up on. We have a flagpole, which is flagless).

It is something that I simply know. A part of what makes me me. I am a woman, I am 29, and I know I am an American, so I don't really feel the need to advertise it.

Actually, I have been in situations while travelling where it wouldn't benefit the situation to reveal that I am from the USA. In a cab in the remotest parts of a Greek Island, with a mad cab driver ranting and raving about the "horrid" Americans, who was my only option for getting to the ferry in time. In Gothenburg, during the summit two years ago in which Bush showed up and riots went mad. In the Seychelles, when I walked into a restaurant after a day of fabulous snorkelling and diving in the Indian Ocean, to find the residents of the restaurant with their heads in their hands-America had started bombing Iraq, worried the Seychelles tourist economy would be ruined (and it was indeed very hard hit).

I am not ashamed of who I am or where I am from. I am currently moving ahead with my Swedish citizenship (which I found out from the Swedish immigration service that they will rule on within two weeks-keep those fingers crossed still, as my life will be well and truly fucked if I don't get it!) and the caveat in me pursuing it was that it was not at the expense of my American citizenship-I couldn't give that up.

Like most Americans, I come from a family of immigrants. On my father's side, I am the first-born American. On my mother's side, we have everything-Irish, Dutch, French, Native American. I am proud to know that my family came to America for the same reasons that millions of others did-to try to make a new life. So yes-I am an American, but I don't feel the need to scream it out loud.

On December 26th, I went to see a hockey game played by my beloved Dallas Stars (for the record, they won against the Predators). The arena (the new American Airlines Arena, which I had never seen before) was packed to the rafters. The fabulous Jumbotron hung over the center ice, full of delicious digital images. Around the entire arena, an electronic screen snaked around the seating, displaying vivid green and gold graphics in a 360 degree view. The ice smelt heavenly, almost metallic in the tip of the tongue, and I remembered how it felt when I used to play hockey, to be a mixture of cold and sweat and heartbeat.

The crowd was loud and happy, and the Stars came out and warmed up. Then, without further ado, we were asked to please stand for the national anthem. We turned to one end of the arena, where an enormous and brilliantly colored flag hung. The music started, and the crowds' voice joined the singers in harmony.

Stars fans do something which has always amused me-the word "Star" appears twice in the anthem, and the fans yell that word each time, in tribute to the Dallas Stars. They did not disappoint, and I found my voice lifting and shouting the word, too. Beside me, Partner Unit just smiled and watched the crowd, not knowing the words (I don't know the Swedish anthem either-it's something about greenness and nature). The Jumbotron sparkled with patriotic images of eagles, flying flags, and glittering gold stars.

And it was then that I felt a lump come up in my throat. As the voices of 20,000+ people raised up for the anthem that I have heard a thousand times in my lifetime, I realized that a strap had been placed across my chest, squeezing out the air in my chest and bringing tears to my face. For the cheesy graphics, the bad anthem singer on the ice, and 20,000 other Americans, for the darkened arena, and for that moment, I felt so completely and utterly American. For all my wanderings in the world and not knowing who I am or where I am from, I knew in that one moment that although some places may no longer feel like home, some situations always will. And I realized that I sang that song along with the others, tears streaming down my face, feeling so happy to be an American, to be a part of a moment and a culture that I understand, and for one second to be able to let down my guard and just think...Look what great things my country can produce.

The anthem ended and we sat, the excitement of the game charging the air with erratic tension, and my tears continued for a good ten minutes or so. I realized that that moment, the moment in which I sang the anthem with many others, was one of the most homesick moments that I have ever felt in my life. And maybe it was an inconsequential moment, nothing spectacular happened, but never in my life have I been prouder to be an American than that pinpoint in time.

Sorry about the flag-waving rabidity.


PS-Partner Unit is off on a 10-day trip to Hong Kong (to the land of Simon), so hopefully blogging will be plentiful. And go say hi to Simon anyway-he is about to be a father. Again.

PPS-I am 32 comments away from my 2000th comment, which Drew had predicted would come by the end of December. He was only one week off :)


I just got back from a trip to my mailbox, and I found a wonderful surprise waiting for me, something which has made my week and put a smile on my face (and it even had me take a shower and change my pajamas!) So to my mysterious benefactor...thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am touched, deeply.

Posted by Everydaystranger at January 8, 2004 09:39 AM | TrackBack

After recently reading about unfortunate persons being criminally prosecuted in England for politically incorrect speech I decided that I am never leaving the USA again. Ever. This country may not be perfect but it is one hell of a lot closer to perfect than any other country on Earth.

H, you posted that you'll be fucked if your Swedish citizenship doesn't come through. Perhaps you haven't considered the fact that you already have the only document you need to get a job here in the USA... your birth certificate (I assume you are a US citizen by birth).

Posted by: Diego at January 12, 2004 10:39 PM

I'm with Roger-I too had to look that up (for a mo I had thought it had something to do with iambic pentameter...oh well). But you are 6 away from 2112, my dear Guinness. Hope it's you!

Posted by: Helen at January 9, 2004 09:01 AM

Nope Guinness,

Rob beat ya to it. Guess you can try for 2112.

Honestly, I had to look it up! Nice:)

Posted by: Roger at January 9, 2004 02:14 AM

I'm never very patriotic until I'm overseas! I don't know why. I mean, I love living here and all, but I don't really feel connected to my country until I live in or visit another land for more than a week.

Posted by: dawn at January 8, 2004 11:24 PM

I'm thrilled to be #2000 and to summarize your sentiments. By my count, I thought I was going to be 1999. You obviously have a good and faithful "following".

Posted by: Solomon at January 8, 2004 11:11 PM

do I get to be a palindromic commenter?

Posted by: Guinness at January 8, 2004 10:55 PM

I'm not incredibly patriotic either...until I hear the anthem and see the flag and then I am again. I guess I just need reminders from time to time :-)

Posted by: Rob at January 8, 2004 10:33 PM

Solomon, my 2000th commenter, has summed my post(and my feelings) up beautifully.

Thanks, Solomon. :)

Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 09:59 PM

There's a difference between the "blind, sentimental, unexamined national fervor" type of patriotism many people have (especially in their mid 20's and younger) and "eyes wide open patriotism" that more mature people have.

One can see the faults of his/her nation and still believe that for all those faults his/her country is one worth being proud of and worth supporting. The U.S. has faults, but I wouldn't trade my citizenship here for any other.

Posted by: Solomon at January 8, 2004 09:57 PM

Makes ya puke huh? Well if all us patriots make you puke, will you promise to dehydrate, shrivel up, and die?

Posted by: Mike the Marine at January 8, 2004 09:21 PM

Sorry, your "patriotism" make me puke. I was going to do a rant on blind, sentimental, unexamined national fervor but I can't. I love Anericans, I hate their politics ( Foreign Policy) Anthems are national opiates as is cheap beer and professional sports. Allright, beer is ok.

Posted by: Allan at January 8, 2004 07:38 PM

See now if I wasnt on vacation last week I'm sure would have pushed ya over the mark. Thanks for the comments and thanks for mentioning me in your post. I feel like Made the big time :)

Only 4 more to go. Maybe have an prize for the winner. Autograph picture would do good :)

Posted by: Drew at January 8, 2004 07:02 PM

Brad-I do think that moving has influenced me, yes. I think that it has hit home more what I miss and don't miss.

Exactly what cyberangel said...

And Marie, thanks (and I bow down to your photography!)


Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 06:47 PM

Helen, Hope this comment helps the comment count go up. Your blog certainly adds color to the internet. Thanx

Posted by: Marie at January 8, 2004 06:42 PM

My boyfriend volunteers with a team that shows a 50 yd by 100 yd flag (fills a football field). I get choked up every time I see the flag and hear the US anthem. You can be proud of your country and still wonder if we always do the right thing. We have freedoms that no one else does. While I sometimes get frustrated at this country, I am so thankful to live here.

Posted by: cyberangel at January 8, 2004 06:27 PM

I know what you're feeling. I spent six months in Sweden and traveled to other countries while I was there. By the end, I was very sad to leave but equally excited to come home to America.

I have to hold back the tears now when I hear the anthem, but I can't hold back the goosebumps. It'll never be the same as it was before I had that experience abroad.

Congrats on 2000 comments!

Posted by: Almost Lucid (Brad) at January 8, 2004 05:47 PM

Welcome home.

Posted by: Unknown at January 8, 2004 05:39 PM

Wahey, wishlists are fun. Takecare and Godbless.

Posted by: Vikkicar at January 8, 2004 05:28 PM


Jiminy you were 15, and now I will be watching said film tomorrow night, glass of wine in hand, waiting in splendor to hear the line you said I nailed almost exactly. I only ever saw that film in the theatre once, but MAN it affected me...

And to Mike the Marine (14)-that was a good laugh, man. Thanks. Can't wait to lay that one on Best Friend!

Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 05:01 PM

Never apologize for being patriotic. Although, discretion in the times and places you exhibit said patriotism is probably wise. But still, no need to ask forgiveness for being a flag-waver. And for Best Friend, who said "Don't get me wrong, I love my country (even if it is a little grubby) - it's just that 'God Save the Queen' doesn't inspire me ..."

I quote Eddie Izzard:
It shouldn't be "God save the Queen," it should be "God ATTACK the Queen." Yes.....

(singing)God aaaa-tack the Queen/Send big dogs after her/That bite her bum

And then she could fight off the big dogs with a brick in her handbag and we'd all say "Well, fair play to the Queen, then."

Posted by: Mike the Marine at January 8, 2004 04:58 PM


Helen, I am so unapologetically patriotic it's funny sometimes. It's nothing to be sorry for. I think that my epiphany came when I was very young, in Memphis. We had an international youth competition (sort of like a mini-olympics, for kids). I was on the ping-pong team, and the soccer team [we got creamed in ping-pong, and took the bronze in soccer]. We had, ironically, two Israeli kids staying with us. Well, one of the many events that Memphis had planned for this week was that all the athletes would attend a professional soccer game. At the beginning of the game, they, of course, played the anthem. The two kids who were staying with me refused to rise. I was so pissed I couldn't even see straight. Another inconsequential, yet crucial moment.

By the way, there's a line in Secretary that mirrored something you wrote almost exactly.

Posted by: Jiminy at January 8, 2004 04:53 PM

I did see that, Paul dearie (and took it in the spirit it was intended!)

Blog nekkid!?! Me? Never! :)

You did know it was -10 here, right?

Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 04:50 PM

That figures. After yesterday's post I brought an ice pack with me to work just in case your "Real Sex" episode spilled over into today's post. I didn't think to bring Kleenex. Although, now that I think about it the Kleenex would work in either case. *Shutting up*

Enjoy your quiet time, blog away. A little Nekkid Blogging maybe?! You probably didn't see the comment I posted on Simon's Aussie Awards post yesterday about you but just in case *ducking*

Take care, PC

Posted by: Paul USA at January 8, 2004 04:31 PM

oo, i loved the secretary!

lol, my bf's parents rented it awhile back not knowing what it was about and were slightly disturbed. heh

Posted by: kat at January 8, 2004 03:57 PM

I'm not rabidly patriotic either. I've never been wholly taken-in with that kind of idealism, but then something will sneak up on you, like the Anthem at a well-placed moment, and choke me up completely. I usually consider myself too much of a cynic to fall into it, but I still do, and at the weirdest moments.

Posted by: amber at January 8, 2004 03:38 PM



No need to apologize for being patriotic to one's country (I think we need more of that), even if it has its share of faults. I'm not America bashing; but I do realize our motives and actions aren't as pure as I once thought they were and now WISH they were.

Posted by: Solomon at January 8, 2004 02:14 PM

It's probably best if Simon and PU don't meet up. How would you, Simon, explain your relationship to Helen (not her real name) without mentioning this blog - which as far as we know PU doesn't even know exists?

Posted by: Clancy at January 8, 2004 02:01 PM


Robert, I seriously don't know the name of the island. He mentioned it over Christmas...and with all the illnesses and surgeries going on over the holidays then, I think there were better things to focus on then than the name of an island.

Morgan-best of luck with your process, stay tuned to hear about mine!

Melo-what happened? What? I knew I should have gotten my commenting system in order!

Mitzi and Best Friend-thanks for making me laugh! :)

And Me-you betcha'!

Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 01:35 PM


Does this mean lots of self gratification in the next ten days? With lots of lovely details???

Posted by: me at January 8, 2004 01:11 PM


Enjoy the next ten days....Sometimes I would LOVE a ten day break from MY "partner unit".....alas, our jobs are not exotic enough to mean trips to foreign lands.
I am thinking good thoughts for you.....

Posted by: Mitzi at January 8, 2004 01:09 PM

As much crap as I give H about the not-so-occasional over-the-top nature of american patriotism, at least the anthem is pretty decent as anthems go - and if memory serves was written for the best reason ... If you had been under heavy naval bombardment all night and survived to see the sun rise on a new day, then you would probably write something similar.

This is stark contrast to the dirge that we in Blighty have to put up with - and it's even worse if you're a scot due to a not so politically correct verse about the scots getting their asses kicked ... I think it was Billy Connelly who said that no-one wanted the british to win at the olympics because that would mean sitting through our anthem. A friend of mine once told me that the best thing about abolishing the monarchy would be that we would get a new anthem.

Don't get me wrong, I love my country (even if it is a little grubby) - it's just that 'God Save the Queen' doesn't inspire me ...

... however the strange thing is that when you get 50 or 60 thousand belting it out at Wembley before a England/France footie international it's still enough for you to turn to the french supporter next to you and kill him for Queen and Country*.

* - Nelson (he of column fame) had the motto: 'To serve the King and destroy the French'

Posted by: Best Friend at January 8, 2004 01:09 PM

Hubby is going to a resort island off Hong Kong and you don't remember the name? Oh come on.

Posted by: Robert at January 8, 2004 12:54 PM

26 and counting...

I know exactly how you feel.

I moved from San Francisco to Australia four years ago. Even though Australia is now my home, I always feel incredibly patriotic and the most homesick when I hear our National Anthem. No matter how much I love Australia, I'll always be a proud American.

Good luck with your citizenship. I start stressing about mine next year.

Posted by: Morgan at January 8, 2004 12:46 PM


The weirdest things make one homesick. My blog is a little underweather, it got too hot under the collar, will post a URL when I have one. :)

Posted by: Melodrama at January 8, 2004 12:28 PM

28 (Pixy posted below)!

He's on some resort island off the coast of Hong Kong for the weekend, golfing with clients. I think it starts with a V...? Sorry, my memory is shot! I can just imagine you liquoring him up now, Simon...

As for the citizenship, I would hope I was an easy candidate-I don't want any aid from the government, I have a job :), none of my family want to use my citizenship as purpose for their immigration to Sweden...I would hope that it is an easy yes. Then again, my passport was stolen a year ago (they want proof of all travels, and I can't possibly remember them all), and my life is actually looking like it can get better, so it seems credible that something is going to come up that will necessitate little Helen being scraped off the floor with a putty knife.

Posted by: Helen at January 8, 2004 10:46 AM


I get choked up over the anthem too, and I'm not overly patriotic. No, check that. I'm rabidly patriotic, I just don't usually cry about it.

The song itself is very powerful and it seems that each year as I gain more knowledge and understanding of just what America is (and is about) the anthem's effect on me increases a bit. Tingly, shakey good feelings for sure.

Posted by: Jim at January 8, 2004 10:40 AM

31 comments to go.

You should get PU to give me a call; I'll get him down to some of the bars and girls in Wan Chai, take a couple of quick photos and everything's sorted. All your problems solved. Easy!

Good luck on the citizenship; is it difficult thing or have you jumped through enough hoops to make it a sure thing?

Posted by: Simon at January 8, 2004 10:10 AM
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