Today’s daily prompt asked, “Are you patriotic? What does being patriotic mean to you?” My gut reaction is to answer, “Of course I am.” To me, patriotism is an admirable trait. It is the commitment to one’s nation and the belief that one lives in a country that may not be perfect, but is still a good place to live. I am proud to be an American, and each school day I recite the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart right along with my students. Well, most of my students. I have students who do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Their parents have instructed them not to, as they feel that it conflicts with their religious beliefs. One of these students is from a military family. I don’t doubt their patriotism.
What patriotism is not, at least in my eyes, is a cloak under which people can claim superiority over others. Yes, I’m glad I live in a country that has a fee market economy and a democratic government. I’m grateful for due process and the right to a fair trial. I’m thankful that as a woman I have more or less equal rights as men, and I’m delighted that our citizenry has access to free public education. I don’t regret paying taxes because I know that these things have a price, and given the choice of paying taxes or living in a nation where I cannot have a voice, cannot practice my religion, and cannot work at my chosen profession, I will happily pay my taxes.
What worries me about the term patriotism, however, is its misuse. Vigilante style “justice” in the name of patriotism is lawlessness, and to me the antithesis of patriotism. I don’t wish to be a “patriot” of the type that seeks to oppress others. Similarly, I don’t wish to be the type of “patriot” that is unable to comprehend that most of the world’s population is not American, and does not do things the way that we do. Patriotism does not equal elitism. Our way is not the only way, and people the world over are proud of their own nations. One need only watch the Olympic opening ceremonies to understand that being a patriot does not require a person to be an American.
So yes, I am a patriot. I am proud of my nation and seek to represent it well, both at home and abroad. But please, don’t ask me to sign your hateful petition in the name of patriotism. You may have the right under the law, but you just don’t understand the spirit of it.