American Culture

“Proud parent of a US Marine” – equal parts parental pride and jingoism

We should be proud of our children’s career choices, regardless of what they are, not just those who choose to go into the US armed forces.

Over the course of this summer, my family and I have traveled to both coasts from our home in Colorado. From the front seats of our Nissan Pathfinder, I’ve observed bumper stickers ranging from “Infowars.com” to “Coexist” to “My labrador is smarter than your honors student,” and everything in between. But it’s one set of related stickers that I’ve seen that make me uncomfortable in a way that they never used to:

Proud parent of a U.S. Marine

My discomfort is partly a result of Donald’s presidency and how uncomfortable patriotism has become as a result, but it also stems from the fact that there aren’t similar bumper stickers for other careers.

For example, why don’t we have bumper stickers that say “Proud parent of an electrical engineer?” Sure, as an EE myself, I’m somewhat biased on this subject, but without electrical engineers we wouldn’t have cell phones, the Internet, electric cars, naval radar systems, or the laptop I’m writing this blog on. Isn’t electrical engineering just as important as being a member of the US armed services?

Maybe the problem is that we somehow think that pride in our children is somehow unseemly if our children aren’t in a form of service job. So how about “Proud parent of a sanitation worker?” We might find it foolish to be proud of a child who grows up to work in sanitation, but without sanitation workers we’d literally be wallowing in our own trash and shit. So why shouldn’t we be proud of sanitation workers?

If the issue isn’t service jobs, maybe it’s government employees. Yet I don’t see “Proud parent of a Department of Housing and Urban Development bureaucrat” either. Given that HUD bureaucrats help low income people find housing, help get homeless veterans off the streets, and the like, I think that any parent should be proud if their child goes to work for HUD.

Military service is often considered a “calling,” rather than an occupation. The same is often said of teaching, but there aren’t “Proud parent of a public school teacher” bumper stickers either. Given how much the various teachers I know have given to their chosen career – long hours without overtime pay, buying classroom supplies with their own money when the school’s budget was all used up, and the like – and how much impact they have on the lives of their students, it’s almost impossible to overstate how proud any parent should be of a child who became a teacher.

Could it be that being a soldier, airman, seaman, or marine is special because it’s dangerous? If so, then where are the “Proud parent of a policeman” or “Proud parent of a fireman” or “Proud parent of a DEA agent” stickers?

It’s OK to be proud of your child for being smart, or being athletic, or attending your alma mater, but it’s somehow not OK to be publicly proud of them for whatever job they chose or ended up in. Unless they ended up in the military.

That seems to me to be as much jingoism as it is pride.

My children are 13 and 11. Whatever career they choose, I’ll be proud of them so long as they’re reasonably happy in their career and they do it well (assuming they don’t become professional assassins or criminals, anyway). Including if they choose to go into the military. And in the unlikely event I choose to be publicly proud of them with a bumper sticker on my car, I’ll be proud of them both, regardless of what careers they chose.

1 reply »

  1. Brilliant post! The inference that someone’s child is more important, or more deserving of praise, than someone else’s child, is insulting to me as well. I hope we are all proud of our children.

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