Patriotism – ‘Love for and devotion to one’s country’ – As defined by Merriam-Webster.
As we celebrate this 4th of July, gathering with family and friends to honor the birth of a nation, I go through my yearly ritual of asking the question: What is Patriotism? I don’t ask it looking for a dictionary definition like the one cited, but rather in an attempt to uncover justification for why we celebrate the way we do.
If I had it my way, I’d modify some of the traditions we commonly employ on the 4th in place of those more neighborly and community-centric. I don’t mean to criticize rituals that symbolize our historic struggles as a nation, but I do find myself wondering, in today’s day and age, why we continue to light up America’s sky with thunder and fire.
I always find myself asking, ‘What does this accomplish?’
Does it stoke ‘patriotic fervor?’ If so, for what? What does that even mean?
Does it unite us against a common enemy? If so, who? How?
Or rather, is it just part of our human nature – a need to come together in cause for celebration?
I’d prefer it be the latter, though it often seems we forget why we’re celebrating in the first place.
Do I partake in these yearly festivities? Of course I do. I enjoy the day off as much as the next person. I’ll drink a beer, have a BBQ, gather with friends and enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that make us proud to be American, OR simply proud to be a part of this great country.
But the 4th of July and our patriotic notions of it should be more than just a day off. It should be more than an opportunity to party or to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ as our pets run for cover seeking shelter from what surely is, to them, the end of the world.
To me, patriotism IS a love of and devotion to one’s country, but it is more. Or, at least, it should be.
Patriotism is Pride – not ‘Freedom Fries.’
Patriotism is Service – not Servitude.
Patriotism is Equality – not 4 Letter Policy Acronyms.
Patriotism is Neighborhoods – not White Picket Fences.
Patriotism is Questions – not Being Blind.
Patriotism is Tolerant – not Xenophobic.
Patriotism is Interconnected – not a Race to the Top.
Patriotism is Defending our Environment – not Criticizing it’s Defenders.
Patriotism is Food – not the name of a Missile.
Patriotism is Celebration – not Fireworks.
Patriotism is ‘Yes We Can’ – not ‘That’s Impossible.’
Today, let’s acknowledge the opportunity afforded us by those who came before. Let’s acknowledge those doing battle to defend our rights – human rights. Let’s acknowledge those working day in and day out, including our elected (and imperfect) leaders, to build a better world.
But most importantly, let’s be intelligent, caring, and compassionate patriots. Our country, and our planet, deserves no less.
By Eric Cardenas, LoaTree