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Sunday, September 11, 2011

What is a Patriot?

...the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.

- "The Czar's Soliloquy"--Mark Twain

You know, patriotism is one of those terms that gets bandied about but I wonder if we  really understand what we mean when we describe someone as a patriot.

Bringing out your U.S. flag on July 4th, Memorial Day or September 11th doesn’t make you a patriot.  Shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A” doesn’t make you a patriot. Knowing the words to the national anthem doesn’t cut it and just because you served in the armed forces doesn’t make you a patriot.

No, I suspect being a true patriot requires a bit more work than that.

Patriotism is defined as the love and support for ones country. I would dare say that the true meaning of patriotism has been both hijacked and denigrated in recent history. Often it gets misused in order to serve a certain person’s agenda.

I want to go to war. If you don’t agree with me, you’re not a patriot.

I want to erect a monument that pays homage to MY hero. You don’t agree with me? No way you’re a patriot.

You’ve never served in the military. You’re no patriot. You don’t love your country.

It kind of reminds me of Archie Bunker. How can you call yourself a patriot when you hate the majority of folks who live in your country?
Who were the original patriots? My guess would be our nation's founding fathers.
You can’t get more original than that.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the signers of the Declaration of Independence all would qualify as American patriots. Just by signing the Declaration of Independence they were basically signing their own death warrant.

Women have also put their lives on the line in making this country live up to its’ principles. One of these would be Ida B. Wells, who fought against lynching even as she fought on behalf of women’s rights. Another example is Susan B. Anthony, who was quite prominent in the fight for civil rights and also played a major role in the 19th century struggle for women's rights.

"Patriots" was the term used to describe those who supported resistance to the policies of King George and his ministers and, later, independence from England.
Depending upon what side you were on you could have considered them rebels or traitors.

You might say that a true patriot should be willing to die for his country. I’m obviously not just talking about military service. Consider Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He died in the attempt of making the United States a better place.  A true patriot? Perhaps.

What about the case of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? I’m sure you remember Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He is President Obama’s former pastor. Back in 1963 Reverend Wright served two years in the Marines and later volunteered to become a Navy medical serviceman. As a Navy medical man he helped care for President Johnson after his surgery in 1966. Do those actions describe a patriot?

It is not unusual for "being patriotic" to became confused with nationalism and even jingoism.

I prefer to think of patriotism as inclusive of both social responsibility and self-sacrifice.  We can’t make our country better by sitting on our butts watching Monday Night Football or American Idol.

On this 10th anniversary of 9/11 I’d like to ask: How would you define patriotism? What would you consider a patriotic act? Who today best exemplifies a true patriot?

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