What does it mean to be a patriot?

As we celebrate July 4th, it’s more important than ever to reflect on what it means to be a patriot. In this deeply polarized nation, too many people think that if they “wrap themselves in the American flag” it shows their love for this country and its values.

It always made me uncomfortable to hear someone describe themselves as a “super patriot” (especially if they didn’t serve) when in reality it often seemed like they were ignoring them. core values ​​of the nation. It is not enough to “fly the flag” to tell me that someone is a true American patriot.

Recently a writer wrote:

“The country has a variety of citizens and every citizen contributes or does (the country) what they are now. Some of the citizens are very aware of their actions and wish to change the country for the better, a few are the ones who are too busy managing their own lives and rarely think about where the country is going, and the others are – well, just there, doing almost nothing for the country.

The writer added:

“A patriotic citizen is more or less like the conscious citizen, he wants to know what is going on in the country and he shows his love by wanting to change bad things in the country. A patriotic citizen will look at the big picture and abandon his individual interests for the sake of the country. ”

What country do you think the writer was talking about? Not America, but India. The writer, “Nandini” posted this in a blog called indianyouth.net. However, the description could match any democratic country where citizen participation is valued, including the United States.

Others observe that in a democracy, one must distinguish between “patriotism” and “nationalism”. In an essay on www.studymode.com, a writer says:

“Nationalism means giving more importance to unity through a cultural context, including language and heritage. Patriotism relates to love for a nation, with more emphasis on values ​​and beliefs. When we talk about nationalism and patriotism, we cannot avoid the famous quote from George Orwell, who said that nationalism is “the worst enemy of peace”. According to him, nationalism is the feeling that one’s country is superior to another in all respects, while patriotism is only a feeling of admiration for a way of life. These concepts show that patriotism is inherently passive and that nationalism can be a little aggressive. Patriotism is based on affection, and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. We can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace.

More from Robert Mounts:

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Confederate soldiers fighting in the American Civil War surely believed they were patriots, although they sought to preserve slavery as a way of life. In the 20th century, soldiers in Germany and Italy surely believed they were patriots, even in favor of oppressive ideology and fascist and autocratic governments.

The Americans who stormed the National Capitol on January 6 also believed they were patriots seeking to right a perceived injustice and “save the country.” They told us on national television. In court, many now admit that they were fooled by the “big lie” and blind loyalty to an autocratic leader.

All were caught up in movements contrary to fundamental democratic values. In the last two examples, these “patriots” blindly followed leaders seeking to preserve, expand and expand their personal wealth and power, much like a cult leader.

Every soldier wants to believe that the cause for which he is fighting is right. This fundamental truth is essential to the morale of the unit and to the “esprit de corps”. This is especially true today for those who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the carnage that followed and the unimaginable economic cost and human tragedies that have been documented. There is nothing more demoralizing for an army than the slow realization that their sacrifice, and those of their friends who did not return home, were probably in vain, if not unjust.

In contrast, Americans who fought in the Korean War often feel their sacrifice was worth it when they visit, as South Korea today enjoys a vibrant economy and a thriving democracy. The same is true of those who fought fascism in World War II. In short, the fundamental values ​​of democracy were worth fighting for.

It cannot be “my country, good or bad”. True patriotism in our democracy requires informed citizens who understand and support the core values ​​enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.

Robert Mounts – Lt Col, USAF (Ret); GS-15, DAC (Ret) – lives in Gainesville.

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