Lapel Pin Patriotism

Posted 7/07/2008 by Sumner in Labels: , , , ,
In light of the 4th of July, which I spent on the Mall in DC with my parents, I've been thinking about what it means to be patriotic. The word patriotism is one that is thrown around all too much, especially when talking about the Presidential campaign and the two leading candidates. The suggestion that either candidate is not patriotic has got to be one of the most absurd things that I have ever heard in my life.

McCain has a long history of serving this country as both a member of the armed services and as a politician. Obama, coming from a mixed race background, has proven himself to be in touch with what it means to be American in a global community and continually seeks to improve the lives of the average American.

Given that, people (I don't need to name names or make generalizations about certain groups of people) still like to claim that Obama is unpatriotic because he doesn't always wear an American flag lapel pin, doesn't always support the exploits of our military, does his duty as a politician and questions authority, and is apparently "Muslim." Obama responded best to these charges back in November when he said:

"After a while I noticed people wearing a lapel pin and not acting very patriotic...I'm less concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans...You show your patriotism by being true to our values and ideals."

What concerns me is that people have very superficial definitions of patriotism. Merriam-Webster dictionary simply defines patriotism as "love for or devotion to one's country." Nowhere does it say that you have to be born in the United States, Christian, own an American flag, support our military, or like hamburgers to be patriotic.

Does having a flag attached to your car, on your shirt, flying outside your house or otherwise displayed automatically make you patriotic? Just because you flash an American flag does that mean that you actually support America. Furthermore, does waving the flag mean that you support the political administration? The military? The country's history? The ideals of our founding fathers? A society of Wal-Marts and McDonalds?

True patriotism does not mean supporting your country because it is your country. One of the most important services that one can do for his or her country is challenging authority and policy of its leaders. Our country would be nowhere today if millions of people didn't stand up to slavery, racism, the Vietnam War, and all other social and political injustices through our history. Nowhere is this notion more important than in the pluralist society of America where people of different races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, and ideologies are united through their differences.

We mustn't love America because we are told it's the greatest country in the world; we must love it because we strive everyday to ensure that it can again be an example for others to follow.

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