Over the course of the past year, many Americansâ€“especially those of a conservative bentâ€”have held an ongoing dialogue on what it means to be patriotic. To them, patriotism certainly means loving the United State of America. I don’t doubt that. The love, however, comes in an odd form. It means being isolationist. It means trying to maintain certain antiquated ideals from a bygone era filled with racial and sexual misconducts. It means shunning the different and degrading the foreign; letting the wealthy run amok and the corporate giants run unregulated.
Hence, I truly hope that many of these people were watching today’s New York City Marathon, when patriotismâ€”real patriotismâ€”was on display in all its red, white and blue splendor.
The supplier was an unlikely oneâ€”a refugee from the tiny African nation of Eritrea who became a naturalized citizen of the United States only 11 years ago. His name is Meb Keflezighi.
This afternoon, Keflezighi became the first American in 27 years to win New York. To be honest, as he was running the last two … three miles of the race, I thought to myself, “Yes, he’s American. And yes, it’s cool. But he wasn’t born here, hence he wasn’t a product of the American running program. So, while it counts, does it really count?” Then, however, as Keflezighi turned the corner for the final 100 yards of the race, he began urging the crowd on, pointing dramatically at the U.S.A. printed in blue letters across his white singlet. The pride oozed from this small 34-year-old man, and when he crossed the finish line and began to sob, chills went up my arms.
In 2009, Keflezighi is America. He’s not the America the Sarah Palins and Mitt Romneys of the world think of, but he truly represents who we are, and what we should strive for: A man who cherishes his citizenship, busts his ass, symbolizes the diversity that makes us unique.
A great moment.
A great friggin’ moment.
PS: On a side note, did anyone happen to catch NBC’s follow-up program to the marathon: Kristi Yamaguchi & Friends Starring the Backstreet Boys (I beg of you, watch the clip). I promised a friend I wouldn’t curse here, but, well, holy f***ing s**t. Somewhere, Kevin Richardson is thanking God for his decision to leave the band. It gets no worse.