What Does It Mean To Be Patriotic?

We often see calls to be patriotic, particularly in a political context. It is important, after all to love the country that you live in.

But what does it mean to love a country? Does it mean to love, unconditionally, everything about that country?

Of course not. The history of any country is bound to contain acts and events that are not to be loved or celebrated. Just as every country is certain to have things that inspire pride.

Some people think patriotism is defined by physical demonstrations. These might include displaying a flag or the country’s colors, reciting a pledge of allegiance, or standing at attention for the national anthem. After all, if you don’t outwardly show love of country, how else might you show it?

Others think that a unified front is important, particularly in the presence of outsiders. Demonstrations against national behavior, criticism of national leaders, and displays of disrespect to a country’s symbols are often seen as unpatriotic.

But is that true? How do I register my displeasure if my country is not acting the way I think it should act? How are individuals supposed to voice their displeasure with the country’s leaders or policies?

In a democratic society, they can vote, of course. But voting only takes place every so often. So what to do in between voting?

There are people who are public servants. People who serve in the armed forces, who run for office, or who work at the local, state, or federal levels of the government. Some people campaign for, or donate to, candidates that they like, or who feel they are represented by.

So what, exactly, is patriotism? Is it celebrating your country’s independence day? Or support of your armed forces, in particular veterans? Is it outward displays? Or is it what is within your heart? What does it mean to be patriotic?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What makes a place feel like home? Where does authority come from? How important is respect? Freedom or security?

1 thought on “What Does It Mean To Be Patriotic?”

  1. Patriotism is love of country. Many of those who:

    • serve in the military,
    • devote themselves to civil rights work,
    • enlist people to vote,
    • regularly work for and give to candidates who they believe advance a country’s ideals,
    • take up a career in justice work to increase the number of those who get to fully participate in a civic life,
    • speak up or protest to expose when a country is not living up to its values, and/or
    • regularly engage in the work of a citizen,
I believe, are patriotic.

    There is a love of country that I find shallow, sort of like fierce devotion some people possess to a particular sports team simply because it’s where they grew up and/or live. A deep love of country, I believe, is knowing your country — sense of its true history and its ideals — and then still loving it enough to defend it and/or work to make it the best that it can be.

    America’s mainstream patriotism, I unfortunately believe, is the shallow form. It often pits one patriot against another. It pigeon-holes those who question America’s practices in relation to its ideals as not having a commitment to our country.

    I believe we need more deep patriots these days. There is so much that is wrong in our country right now, and we need more people to fight for justice in ways big and small. Currently, the American ideal of one person, one vote is a joke. Gerrymandering further disenfranchises the disenfranchised. Purging voter roles, does the same. We have supposed “leaders” in the US House and Senate showing more allegiance to party than country. Many in our country accept spending, taxing, and regulating that harms the poor, communities of color, women, those living with disabilities or are in ill health, and others who’ve long-suffered from institutional biases that keep them from being fully involved in the great experiment that is American democracy.

    It is often said that “America is an idea.” I fear it is an idea that is slipping away. We need more patriots to stand up and fight a future with an America that progresses towards its highest potential.

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