With the approaching of the Fourth of July, our most celebrated national holiday that commemorates the birth of this nation, I believe it is very appropriate to address an issue that ties in with the celebration and the holiday.
For some time now, I have wanted to do a piece on patriotism and how it should relate to every American citizen. I have been a staunch patriot as long as I can remember. My embrace of patriotism goes back to my childhood. When I was a first grader, I was taught to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It was further reinforced at football games when I was in high school and on the football team. At the beginning of every game we had to stand, remove our helmets, and give due respect at the playing of the National Anthem. From 1975 through 1978, I was further indoctrinated and perhaps I should say inculcated with the doctrine and practice of patriotism as a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg.
So now that I have given you a brief history of the origin and progression of my patriotism as an American citizen, I will tell you why I believe that every citizen of this nation should embrace and practice patriotism regardless of race, socio-economic status, religious affiliation or political party endorsement.
From my perspective, I believe that only my loyalty to God, my family, and my church should be more important than my loyalty to my country. Exactly what is patriotism?
Patriotism is love and loyal support of one’s country. The concept or idea of the United States of America came into being primarily because of the original Thirteen Colonies’ desire and revolt to be free from King George’s tyranny, excessive, and unfair taxation without equal representation. Once we declared our independence from King George and the British Empire, it was the belief in patriotism that galvanized and emboldened the colonists to enlist in the maiden and often disorganized and ragtag army that ultimately, with the help of France, defeated the greatest military power on the face of the earth. From that moment on, it has been the belief in patriotism that has helped to preserve and protect our nation from our enemies (foreign and domestic).
From the War of 1812, against the British (that we nearly lost), to the French and Indian War, to both World Wars; from the Korean conflict, to this present day when we are battling Isis and terrorism, patriotism has played a major role.
However, patriotism that has helped to make America great and the envy of the world cannot be restricted and limited just to war and military conflict. Love and loyalty for one’s country must take into consideration such patriotic duties as civic mindedness and political activism, especially through registering to vote and doing it.
True patriots do not sit on the sidelines in apathy and do nothing when an enemy, foreign or domestic, is attacking this nation. Just being willing to serve in the military, salute the flag, or take your hat off and stand at the playing of the National Anthem does not capture the total concept of true patriotism.
A true patriot does all he can to advance and promote the general well-being of his country beginning at the local level. He volunteers and puts his shoulder to the wheel when and wherever he can to make things work for his neighbors. True patriotism is being willing to fight or work with others on the battlefield or home front that you disagree with in your religious beliefs, politics, and other ideological convictions. It is the ability to put these things in their proper place and disagree with others without becoming disagreeable about what you are trying to achieve for your country.
One of my favorite examples and stories of true patriotism is captured in the true story of Alvin York, the most decorated soldier of World War I. Before he earned his medals on the battlefield, York was a conscientious objector whose beliefs and conscience would not let him take up arms on the battlefield. However, once he entered the Army through the draft, he ultimately found himself on the battlefield facing a terrible dilemma. With his men and comrades being slaughtered around him by machine gun fire, he made a decision that would thrust him forever into the hall of American history and heroism. He went into action and positioned himself in a position to pick the enemy off from their rear flank as they were lined up in a trench. Being unable to defend themselves as he picked them off one by one, those who were not killed finally surrendered; thus the legend and true story of America’s most decorated soldier of World War I was born.
When he was asked by his commanding officer what changed his mind and stand as a conscientious objector, his amazing response was that when he saw his comrades being killed, he felt compelled to defend them and kill the ones who were killing them. By the way, he was still just as opposed to killing as he ever was once this heroic episode was over.
So in light of all that we have considered in this patriotic edition of my column, I want to reiterate and make it perfectly clear to everyone reading this material that I am a staunch patriot. Does this mean that I embrace all of the policies and actions of our government? Absolutely not!
There are things about this nation, past and present that were and are wrong and certainly need fixing. There is the reality of systemic racism and its lingering effect; the ever expanding gap between the rich and the poor; the polarization of our nation due to partisan ideologies embraced by conservatives on one end of the debate and liberals on the other; the epidemic of drug addition, both prescription and illegal; and the crime and terrorism reality as well as many other evils that have beset our nation. Nevertheless, America, with all its imperfections and evils, is still by far the greatest nation on earth and best place to live. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to do some extensive travel abroad knows this to be true.
America is an experiment, not only in democracy, but in human relations on a colossal scale.
Perhaps, one of the things that will help us through these difficult times will not be our politics, our divisive religious affiliations, or ethnic fringes, but our patriotism and mutual love for our country. Even as it was patriotism that galvanized and unified the Founding Fathers and people of the Thirteen Colonies and thus secured our independence from the British Empire, perhaps patriotism can be the unifying force that will help America to overcome and regain her vigor and true greatness in this age of polarization, division, and discord.
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