What is patriotism?
Miriam Webster’s online dictionary defines patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country. Perhaps the images most associated with patriotism are of someone waving the American flag or displaying the American flag or wearing an American flag pin.
The tea party members and the right wing militia groups believe themselves to be not only patriotic, but following in the footsteps of the men and women who fought in the Revolutionary War. Their brand of patriotism consists of waving, not just the American flag, but the Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. The militia groups choose names like “Sons of Liberty” and profess a deep love for the country and a deep desire to see the country return to what it once was as does the Tea Party. That kind of fanatical patriotism is frightening at times and is hardly real patriotism.
So what then is “real patriotism”? The definition of patriotism is love for or devotion to one’s country. To love or be devoted to someone or something usually means to want what is best for that someone or something, to be willing to make the effort, do what must be done to protect that something or someone. Conservatives seem to want the opposite. They seem to want to destroy the very thing they claim to love.
Real patriotism is neither “my country right or wrong” nor “my government right or wrong”. Real patriotism understands that the country and its constitution are good even when those in power are not making the best or right decisions. Real patriotism understands that moving backward is never an answer, but seeking ways to move forward is. Real patriotism understand that the system of government created by the Constitution does work, and works best when we all find that common ground between the extremes which enables us to move forward.
Real patriotism is not about waving, displaying or wearing the American flag. It is about being touched somewhere deep within by the American flag, the National Anthem, the Statue of Liberty, The Lincoln Memorial and other symbols because those symbols represent the best in our country. Real patriotism understands that we still have far to go until we realize the ideals set forth in both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and believes that those ideals are worth reaching for always even if we never quite achieve them perfectly.