Patriotism Is Love of Country, Not of Government or Its Policies
Ron Sparks works in information technology and writes a blog called The Binary Biker about motorcycles, technology, politics, and everything else that interests him.
Patriotism is defined, by Dictionary.com, as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”
That’s it; that’s all there is to the definition of patriotism. If you’ll notice, there is no sub-clause of that definition that states a patriot must support the troops in the exact same fashion as the vocal majority/minority. There is no clause that demands a patriot must be Republican, or any other political party. In fact, the definition says love of country—not of government or policies or leaders or figureheads.
The calls to action within the definition of patriotism are simple; support, love, and defend your country. The greatest truths are often deceivingly simple and elegant—and are usually worthless as a result. Just so with the definition of patriotism. It’s so simple that there are, literally, millions of possible definitions that can apply to it. And so, it becomes meaningless at any level except the highest.
It’s as simple as supporting, loving, and defending my country. And as complex as that.
Because patriotism is such an open-ended and subjective concept, we must, all of us, decide what it means and how to best act upon it. You, me, your coworker, your spouse, your siblings, your friends; we must all decide for ourselves what patriotism really is and how (and if) to act upon it.
Blind Patriotism Is Sweeping the Nation
What do most people do? How do the teeming masses define patriotism? The answer is simple; they choose the path of least resistance and define it the same way everyone around them does. That’s a dangerous and troubling realization, people. People don’t consciously think about what patriotism is; they blindly follow the lead of the mob they find themselves in.
I’ve ranted and railed about how the average man or woman on the street displays an astounding lack of critical thinking skills in my blogs. I’ve agonized over the split between science and religion. I’ve decried the use of pseudoscience to gain false validity to decidedly nonscientific disciplines. I encourage and feed debate and differing opinions. But I was never called unpatriotic—until just recently.
There is a wave of patriotism devoid of critical thought sweeping this nation. Blind patriotism. It revolves around the United States military and the troops who put their lives on the line. It’s all over the social networks and I’m sure you’ve seen the messages floating around, virally growing and feeding as people blindly agree and forward on to others.
There is no room for discussion about what this means. There is no latitude to define how (or if) you support the troops. You can’t comment that you don’t support the reasons the government put our young men and women in danger. You either support the troops or you do not. There is no middle ground. That, people, is a False Choice Fallacy.
The false choice is that if you don’t support the troops (or at least appear to) exactly the same way as everyone else, you are unpatriotic. I know—because I tried to leverage my critical thinking skills on a patriotic debate on Facebook recently and was labeled unpatriotic. I had the gall to ask the forum for specifics, for clarification, for facts. I had the nerve to break from the herd and speak out….
It Is Not Unpatriotic to Question the Government
People in the thread started pulling out “personal credentials” to impress upon me how firmly entrenched their patriotism is. They had relatives who had fought in three wars. They were married to a soldier. They had served three tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. They passive-aggressively told me they felt sorry for me and they supposed that even someone like me deserves the right to an opinion. It felt very much like a fundamentalist Christian telling me I was going to burn in hell but there was still hope for me if only I would do exactly what they told me to do.
I very calmly informed them that I, too, had “credentials” and that they don’t mean much when it comes to defining personal patriotism. I grew up a Navy brat, moving all over the country my entire childhood as my father was stationed in different places. My brother was/is a US Marine. My brother-in-law is a Commander in the Navy. My grandfather on my mom’s side fought in the Pacific in WWII [World War II]. My grandfather on my father’s side was a POW [prisoner of war] for months in WWII, received the Purple Heart, and was actually knighted by the French government for his valor in the Battle of the Bulge. My best friend in the world is currently halfway across the world in Dubai—a Navy diver who holds the extremely dangerous job of looking for mines attached to ships and floating in the harbor. I, personally, spend 40+ hours a week as a consultant for the Army National Guard; I am an IT [information technology] contractor in charge of some very significant software projects with the Guard. I come from a family with a very strong military background.
And yet I still ask questions….
It was [African American human rights activist] Malcolm X who said, “You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.” It’s wrong to denounce our president for being a diplomat who wants to wage war at the negotiation table instead of in the streets. It’s wrong to give up your liberties for the illusion of temporary security. It’s wrong to send our troops to die when there may be other options available to us. It’s wrong to label someone who questions the government as unpatriotic, since patriotism has nothing to do with government and everything with country.
Do I support my country? Yes—I work, I vote, I debate, and I use my brain to weigh issues and question our government; just as every loyal American should.
Do I love my country? Yes—the United States of America is, in my opinion, the best nation in the world, from sea to shining sea. The United States is a beautiful country, founded on amazing ideals, and has been a shining beacon for the world to follow for generations.
Do I defend my country? Yes—while I can never be a soldier, I do what I can to support our troops by keeping their IT systems working and by making sure our government doesn’t cavalierly send them into harm’s way.
Do I support our troops? Yes, I do. There are times and reasons why we have to send our troops in harm’s way. There are valid reasons in the wars we are fighting today. I do think we’re too quick, though, to send the troops in harm’s way sometimes.
Ultimately, I think the concept of “nations” is nothing more than “tribalism.” I long for the day when borders are no longer necessary and we speak not of nations, but of humanity, but that day is not today. Until then, I choose to support, love, and defend the United States of America in the way I see best.
Just because it’s not the same way the mindless masses think doesn’t mean I am unpatriotic. I could argue that I am more patriotic than them, because I think about it and have consciously chosen the reasons for my patriotism.
People, don’t be blindly patriotic; think about it. Decide why you are patriotic. And above all, question everything. As [historian and political activist] Howard Zinn said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
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Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2011 Greenhaven Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.
Sparks, Ron. “Patriotism Is Love of Country, Not of Government or Its Policies.” Patriotism. Ed. Sylvia Engdahl. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. Current Controversies. Rpt. from “Blind Patriotism Is Rampant.” Binarybiker.com. 2010. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.
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