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POV: For Love of Country

POV: For Love of CountryBy Jill Bennett

Last month, my colleague Alison Anderson and I had the privilege of visiting Washington, D.C to lobby for nonprofits in Utah. It’s hard not to be reflective when visiting the National Mall—especially at night, when even amidst the many shadows, the sacredness of the monuments feels more present than in bright sunlight. These shadows speak to the complicated history of our country—a history that fully reflects the humanity of our leaders and challenges us to consider what it means to be a patriot.

My dad, uncles, and grandfathers all served in the armed forces, and, except for my dad, saw action in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. My great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Pvt. Johannes “John” Aumiller Sr., served in the Revolutionary War. I wonder what it felt like to arrive in this country in 1754 at the age of 19, become a landowner, and then leave home and family to fight for independence. My maternal grandfather told my mom that the day he arrived in France, the Germans took one look at his striking presence and headed back to Germany. I let this last story sit—unquestioned—until I was far too old to believe in fairy tales. But it was this story, as fabricated as it was, that taught me about service, because it was more than my other family members ever shared about their own service experience. And it remains their service. I cannot claim it or any status it might confer as my own, but I can honor it.

Honoring their service means that I fully understand their very real sacrifice and the generational impact that their time at war had on my family. It makes me appreciate the complicated histories that led to war and acknowledge the original stewards of the land that my great 5th grandfather settled on in Pennsylvania—and the privilege that this affords me and all his descendants. It calls me to question authority, to lobby, and to continue to fight for this imperfect union that has unbounded potential but no guarantee of success.

The threats our country faces are not new. In 1945, the War Department spoke against fascism in  Army Talk Orientation Fact Sheet #64 - Fascism! and noted that, “If we don't understand fascism and recognize fascism when we see it, it might crop up again — under another label — and cause another war.”

According to the Department of War, Fascists have three attitudes and practices in common:

"1. Pitting of religious, racial, and economic groups against one another in order to break down national unity is a device of the 'divide and conquer' technique used by Hitler to gain power in Germany and in other countries.

2. Fascism cannot tolerate such religious and ethical concepts as the 'brotherhood of man.' Fascists deny the need for international cooperation. These ideas contradict the fascist theory of the 'master race.' The brotherhood of man implies that all people — regardless of color, race, creed, or nationality have rights.

3. Many fascists make the spurious claim that the world has but two choices — either fascism or communism, and they label as 'communist' everyone who refuses to support them. By attacking our free enterprise, capitalist democracy and by denying the effectiveness of our way of life they hope to trap many people.”

The pamphlet includes ways to stop fascism—and even writing “stop fascism” makes me feel as if I am living in some Orwellian dystopia that has been overrun with zombie fungus.

“The fascist doctrine of hate fulfills a triple mission. By creating disunity — it weakens democracy. By getting men to hate rather than to think — it prevents men from seeking the real cause and a democratic solution to the problem. By fake promises of jobs and security, fascism then tries to lure men to its program as the way out of insecurity. Only by democratically solving the economic problems of our day can there be any certainty that fascism won't happen here. That is our job as citizens.”

I know that our plates are getting fuller and fuller. Donors have new behaviors, recruiting is more challenging, inflation, although slowed, has savaged our budgets, and more and more people need our help. (Did I miss anything there?) If you do have room for one more morsel on your plate, please take every opportunity that comes your way to speak for democracy and confront hate when you see it.

Patriotism = love. Who knew?