It’s been a while since I’ve spewed out some thoughts on here. I’ve been randomly pondering patriotism a lot recently and I’ve wanted to write a blog about it. I thought I’d wait until all of the artificial 4th of July “patriotism” passed over. Veterans day, ironically, is much less glorified but it has more direct significance in my life. So this one is for Grandpa Hyde, Dad, and my big bro Jared who have given part of their lives to serve this nation.
Whether we agree with governmental leaders and their decisions or not, there are men and women who have given their lives for our safety and freedom. We’d be pretty messed up if it weren’t for those millions who gave their lives in the World Wars in particular. Whether you agree with today’s wars or not, our military is still there to protect those same freedoms and rights they stood for back then, regardless of allegedly ignorant leaders.
I’m afraid that for a majority of my life I was sucked into the attitude that patriotism meant fireworks and vacations on the fourth of July and standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before school started each day. (Again, ironic that in some places that has even become a crime.) I used to even mock when people got teary-eyed during the national anthem. I thank the Idaho Falls fireworks show last July for not only having really awesome fireworks, but accompanying them with amazing quotes from former presidents (and some slightly cheesy but also inspirational music).
We Americans give America a pretty stinking hard time. But we’re the stinky ones.
The freedom to choose alone is what makes me love this country. We can chose freely which direction our life will go; anywhere from professionally to religiously. I don’t think we realize how many people can’t say that. The big problem is that we think we can chose to take back our choices or we think we can just choose the individual consequences we want. Or better yet, we think we can choose to do things regardless of the effect it has on those around us. This is not patriotism.
Yes, we love democracy… until the majority chooses what we don’t like. Then we just go to extreme efforts to make the other side look like crooks and frauds. (Democracy is definitely my favorite. Unfortunately it isn’t perfect. But it’s the best we’ve got. People mix democracy too closely with politics. I think they are two separate things. Hence…) Even when our own side “wins” (hate that term when it comes to government – I thought we were all on the same team), we say they betray us when things don’t work out exactly how we want. But we citizens just leave it up to politicians to fix while we sit on our lazy behinds and take take take and complain complain complain. This is not patriotism.
Remember this from President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country?” The foundation of our country allows us to get up and contribute to the country. Not through politics, but through being honest, competent, contributing citizens. For some odd reason we think we deserve federal assistance like grants and welfare without giving back to society. This attitude is called entitlement. Entitlement is a nationwide disease that will be the downfall of this country far quicker than any other epidemic or conflict. The U.S. debt clock has reached over 14.5 trillion. We think that’s the government’s fault alone? The average personal debt per U.S. citizen is over 51,000. Our total personal debts combined actually exceed the national debt by almost 2 trillion. Yeah, the government really needs to control it’s spending – we sure know how to. But it’s ok, we deserve all of the fancy things we’ve bought with our debts right? This is not patriotism.
When out country was first getting started, people worked their behinds off. Not to mention they sacrificed everything including their lives so that we can have the good things we have today. The signers of the Declaration of Independence signed away their lives so that we could be free to choose a life of happiness. Blood, sweat and tears went into that document along with the Constitution. We think we can use it to our defense when we are in trouble, yet how many of us have taken the time to read and understand it? Patriotism is knowing, defending, and standing by those values and laws that were inspired to set this land apart from any other.
Patriotism is choosing to contribute to society not take from it. My brother has just recently gotten into the Air Force and I’ve never been prouder of my family name. He has also inspired me to give more to the country he is willing to sacrifice his life for. My other brother was rejected for government assistance for a coming second child because he had saved too much money instead of buying new cars or big TV’s and houses as many receiving such assistance do. And I’m proud of him for it.
Patriotism is using the democratic system and then standing by it; come what may. Patriotism is being a good human being and looking out for our neighbor. The fireworks are just for fun.
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
-Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels very strongly about being loyal and patriotic especially in America. Here’s one of the many sermons on the matter that all – LDS member or not – should read.)