True patriotism

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Over the course of the past year, many Americans–especially those of a conservative bent—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 patriotism—real patriotism—was on display in all its red, white and blue splendor.

The supplier was an unlikely one—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.

8 thoughts on “True patriotism”

  1. Nice post as usual. If I can add one thing, Meb is, in fact, a product of U.S distance running. He went to high school in California before starring at UCLA. If I’m not mistaken, he didn’t really run until he came to the US.

  2. I am in awe of all marathon runners, regardless of nationality and I think all should be applauded. I saw the end of the coverage of this marathon. In the last mile, as Meb ran by, the cops working the course applauded his efforts. As the Kenyan in second place ran by they put their hands in their pockets. Patriotism, the American way.

  3. Jeff, can you really just not help yourself? What on earth does Sarah Palin have to do with the NYC marathon? Is your hatred of Republicans so strong that it colors your entire experience?

  4. Jeff, I’m a fan of yours and read your blog daily, but I think its quite telling that your first, second, maybe even third reaction was that his accomplishment “didn’t count”. If he hadn’t dramatically pointed to his shirt, you’d probably still think it. The man has lived in this country for over 20 years, went to high school and college here, and lives here. He even won an Olympic medal for us. Take a look at Ryan Hall and all the other “real Americans” – they all wore the singlet of their sponsor, not a USA one. Hmm. Maybe THAT’s the real American way.

  5. I don’t think Jeff really understands or listens to Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney — of course they would be proud that an American won the marathon. Why the heck wouldn’t they be? This country was built by immigrants — I am as conservative as NY allows, and I love immigrants and their success stories.

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