Years ago I was occasionally embarrassed to see PDAs --- Public Displays of Affection --- for instance, teenagers nuzzling on park benches, or older folks walking along hand-in-hand, head-on-shoulder, and closer. Yeah, I was prudish and hypersensitive. These days I find PDAs entertaining or encouraging (or both!). After all, the species must go on, and to do so takes still some amount of interpersonal contact, pair-bonding, and what-not. We're animals; we might as well admit it and learn to laugh at it and live with it.

Now I'm trying to outgrow my embarrassment at another phenomenon which might be called PDPs --- Public Displays of Patriotism --- flag waving, national anthem singing, jingoistic speechifying, allegiance pledging, independence-day in-formation marching, and so forth. Yes, like PDAs, PDPs are often overdone and go a bit beyond good taste. Yes, a mature person may well cringe at youthful (and elderly) exuberance in expressing public-spirited emotions.

But as Edward Gibbon observed in Chapter 1 of his Decline and Fall:

That public virtue which among the ancients was denominated patriotism, is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in the preservation and prosperity of the free government of which we are members.

If we want to have another generation around, to subsidize us in our retirement, we probably need to tolerate PDAs. If we want to have a civilization around, to keep the peace, we probably need to tolerate PDPs. And maybe we should go beyond tolerance and applaud (or at least smile upon) both sorts of public displays ....

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicSociety - 2002-11-22

(correlates: Gibbon - Chapter 1, Boston Public Library, ItUsuallyBeginsWithAynRand, ...)