Wednesday, July 4, 2012

True Patriots

Every July 4th, Americans celebrate our nation’s shared heritage, shared success and shared values.  Patriotic sentiments go on display as we gather with our friends and neighbors to toast what it really means to be an American.  

The 4th of July is typically a time of joy and remembrance.  It is an opportunity to thank our servicemen and women for fighting for our country, to thank our local heroes for keeping our communities safe and to be merry with our fellow Americans, celebrating the common threads in the fabric of our nation’s history. 

But what does it really mean to be to celebrate America, to be patriotic?  Is it supporting our President?  Is it supporting our troops?  Is it supporting a common goal or virtue? Or is it simply a love of our country?  Maybe it is all of the above. And that is one of the best things about being an American – we are free to decide what it means to us.

Regardless of how you feel about being an American or about the definition of patriotism, one of the great liberties that we are afforded as American citizens is the right to choose how we feel and what we support.  And while we may not always agree, we need to recognize that our country was founded on differing opinions and a respectful tolerance for welcoming opposing ideals. 

On the 4th of July, it is important to remember that the diversity in this country is what makes us distinctive and special.  We are all molded from different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and beliefs.  We need to honor the uniqueness in one and other as fiercely as we defend the right to express our individual speech and religion.  This is what has shaped our history and this is what continues to shape our future.

Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich recently wrote:

“True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of it. Generations of Americans have risked their lives to preserve it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve the U.S. government, not destroy it.”
As patriots, what is our role in improving our government and making our ideals reality? Respectfully expressing our differing opinions and engaging passionately in our democracy.  While we share a love for this country and a support for American ideals, we don’t always define them the same way.  We must be patient and open to the notion that our democracy draws its strength from diversity of ideas and that recognizing and honoring differences in perspective is what has built this great nation.  It certainly isn’t patriotic to radically support one view to the exclusion of all others.  Patriotism is a tolerance, understanding and acceptance of all Americans.

Have a happy, safe and thoughtful 4th of July.

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