What does being patriotic mean to you?

We hear the words “patriot” and “un-American” all the time when we discuss politics. We often hear these words used to justify something that many on the left disagree with. We often hear these words used to describe people that we don’t agree with. We often hear these words used to separate “true Americans” from the rest of society. I, myself, have been called un-American and unpatriotic before because I didn’t agree with something being done by the government. That got me thinking, what is patriotism? What is “un-American?”

Before writing this article, I asked people to answer two questions: 1) What is “being patriotic” to you; and 2) What is “being un-American” to you? I collected responses from friends, from family, from strangers from all walks of life. If you would like to read the responses unedited, you can find them here. The responses I received were varied but they were heart-warming, and in reading the responses I received, patterns began to emerge.

“Being patriotic to me is fighting for your rights and standing for what you believe in. To protest, to question, to challenge. To want to change the world and your country for the better.”

This was something that kept coming up: standing up for what you believe in, fighting for your rights, and changing the country for the better. In the responses I received, people talked about different ways of doing this. Some responses included all people whether they are a citizen or not, whether legal or illegal. Some responses only included American citizens. Some responses specifically excluded people who were not American citizens. Despite that range, they all talked about making America better and fighting for ideas of freedom that we were founded on. This is the essence of patriotism that transcends political belief.

However, that is where the similarities in answers ended and where political leanings took over. The answers began to vary widely. Take the following four quotes:

“[Being patriotic means] [r]espect for our country’s flag. Loving your country and a fair amount of respect for our government.”
“I think [being patriotic means] questioning the government (whether it’s Obama, the Clintons, or Trump). All the thousands of people out protesting are patriotic.”
“Being patriotic to me means feeling devotion for one’s country, but no blindly so.”
“To be [p]atriotic means to love your country [and] accepting its imperfections. That means sometimes we have to face hard truths to get the country back to the ideal we want it to be.”

Look at the differences between these answers. One focuses on the flag and respecting government; one speaks of devotion but stresses not to be devoted blindly; one focuses on accepting imperfections and facing hard truths; and one focuses on dissent. These are differences in how we see America. These are differences in our world view and what we place our values in. None are more correct than the others; they all focus on different things.

“People have their own image of what kind of ideals our country should act on. When certain events take place … that do not fit this image, one can still be patriotic toward their country.”

This was part of an explanation that I received and one that I could not have stated better myself.

Other themes that I discovered focused on religious freedom, immigration, equality, and community.

“Patriotism, in my opinion, is not only love for one’s country and home, but welcoming others to said country.”
“Being un-American, to me, is closing our doors when we ourselves were once seeking aide.”
“To me, un-American means that you don’t trust anyone and you believe that everyone is a bad person and that the people are up to no good.”
“I think being patriotic is as simple as wanting to make things better in your community.”

What is considered patriotic and un-American is widely different based on your background and your concerns. There is no way to generalize everyone. Patriotism is deeply personal to each person. What is un-American depends on how each person views the world. The only universal idea of what is patriotic is that a patriot fights to make America better than it was and fights to protect the ideals that America was founded on. The only thing universally un-American is to fight to harm America and to fight to destroy or detract from the ideals and freedoms which America was founded on. Everything else is just a difference in world view and ideology.

So next time you argue with someone or you think about calling someone un-American or proclaiming someone is not a patriot, ask yourself if that person is fighting to harm America or the freedoms and ideals of America, or if they are trying to help America and uphold those freedoms but they are doing so in a way that you just don’t agree with.

So, what does patriotism mean to me? Patriotism to me is realizing we are all people regardless of background, regardless of origin, regardless of world view. Patriotism to me is treating people with the utmost generosity and the utmost respect and fighting against those who would harm others. Patriotism to me isn’t about America, patriotism to me transcends nationality, because the values America was founded on transcends nationality.

What does patriotism mean to you?

If you enjoyed this and wish to read more on politics, current events, and law, I run my own blog which can be found at: https://www.moderateextremism.com/