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?

What Makes A Good Leader?

Good leaders can come from just about anywhere. They can be found in nearly every aspect of society.

For example, a teacher might help shape a generation of students. Or a religious figure can bring enlightenment to an entire congregation. A CEO might lead a company to grow and positively impact a community. A sports figure can inspire children from many places and backgrounds to achieve.  And a politician just might inspire us to become better citizens.

What do these, and other, good leaders have in common? What traits do they share? Is the role something that can be learned or fostered? Or conversely, is it a naturally-born characteristic? What can you do to become a more effective leader in your everyday life?

What makes a good leader?

Related questions: Where does authority come from? How do you know who to trust? Which historical figure would you like to meet? Who inspires you?

Where Is Society Failing?

There are some amazing things about our society. Unfortunately, there are also many ways that society is failing to provide for us, its citizens.

Listing the ways that we could be better might sound depressing. But ultimately, the first step to making improvements is to determine what needs to be improved.

With that in mind, what are the ways that our government, our companies, our institutions are letting us down? Where is society failing?

Related questions: What is the greatest problem facing humanity? When is it useful to fail? What is keeping us from sustaining the planet? How can we turn sadness into constructive action?

What Is Your Favorite Shared Experience?

Humans are a social species. We like to connect with other humans, to share ideas and experiences. A shared experience, like a movie or a concert, is more enjoyable than the same activity done in isolation.

As such, things we can do together have a special place in our psyches. We remember where we were when a impactful moment happens, one that everyone knows. The moon landing. 9/11. The space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Often these events can be traumatic, like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK. But they can also be a cultural event, like the final episode of a TV show like M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. Or a movie like The Avengers, or a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

Personally, I don’t know much about Game of Thrones. I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the TV shows. But I felt a sense of loss as the final few episodes aired recently.

The shows aren’t going anywhere. Now that they are all done, I can binge watch the whole thing any time I want. But the communal feeling that viewers had, knowing that a large percentage of society was paying attention, cannot be recaptured.

I wish I had been part of a viewing party. Or been able to talk to friends or co-workers about what shocking thing happened last night. Or been able to appreciate the late night talk show jokes, or read any of the seemingly endless blogs or magazine articles dissecting every minor detail of each of the last few episodes.

Those moments, of a shared community, makes us feel like we are part of more than just our tiny selves.

When have you felt a part of a cultural moment? What is your favorite shared experience?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Where do shared ideas exist? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?