The parade is over. The fireworks are silent. The celebration has ended. What’s left? Patriotism? That’s what the Fourth of July is all about, isn’t it?
What is patriotism? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, patriotism is love for or devotion to one’s country. So, what is love for or devotion to one’s country? To me, showing love for or devotion to one’s country is as individual as each person. Today, as in past decades, there is a collective view of patriotism, but what does an individual definition of patriotism look like?
I believe showing and living a patriotic life means participating in our democratic process by voting. If a person is not registered to vote and has never cast a ballot, that person cannot claim to be patriotic. Those living in the U.S. may have a right to say whatever they want, but without casting a ballot, those words are hollow, meaningless and irrelevant.
What has patriotism looked like in the past to someone like Thomas Paine? In the “Rights of Man,” he said: “When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, then may that country boast its Constitution and its Government.” I don’t know if Paine was specifically talking about patriotism, but his quote is quite applicable to me when I think of patriotism.
Patriotism should be about deeds, not a simple wave of a flag or shooting off fireworks or empty bragging that one’s country is the best in the world.
I question a country’s collective patriotism when that country, our country, has millions who are in distress for lack of proper food, housing and medical care. Some will instantly respond that those are not our problems to resolve, it’s someone else’s responsibility and it’s their own fault; but, if you are a human being, you do have to be answerable to the plight of others. Everyone who pays any type of tax has a responsibility to voice his/her opinion regarding how taxes are spent, unless, of course, one never takes part in casting a ballot.
One can be patriotic and proud of one’s country, but with that comes responsibility and effort, and I don’t mean just waving a flag and shooting off fireworks.
If we want a city, state and country to be proud of and wave a flag for, we should be looking into the faces of those in distress and feel what they feel. We should look into the faces of our children and figure out what we are leaving them.
Our own small piece of the planet needs our help. We can take a few minutes each day to protect our space. We can take a moment to encourage a neighbor to vote or drive them to a polling place. We can spend some time volunteering for a candidate who has the welfare of the community in their platform. We can donate time or money to any number of nonprofits.
It’s easy to wave a flag, but it takes time, our time, to make that action mean something. Simply wearing a T-shirt or a cap with a slogan to show patriotism is easy; using time and effort to ease the distress of fellow humans is difficult.
All the pain and suffering in the world will never be eradicated, but that doesn’t mean one gives up or doesn’t attempt to ease it in some way, no matter how insignificant one thinks their contribution might be. One either cares or not. One either acts or doesn’t. One either takes responsibility or pushes it off on someone else.
We need talk to each other about what we agree upon. We can always find disagreements. We proclaim vociferously that we care about hungry kids and seniors and homeless veterans. We say voting is important. That’s a lot of agreement to me. Do we have some time between flag waving and fireworks to work?
Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 702-339-9082.