What is patriotism?

Last night, not long before I went to bed, I got involved in a discussion on Facebook about the current state of the country. In the course of the conversation, someone said they weren’t proud of the country. Someone else chimed in later claiming that none of those criticizing the OP could be patriots unless they posted their discharge papers and a photo of themselves in uniform. Unless they could do that, the implication was they had no right to say anything to the OP who was in the military.

My first reaction this morning upon seeing not only that allegation but the allegation that I had told the OP to leave the country was one of disbelief. First, I had not told the OP to leave. I had asked why, if he was no longer proud of the country, he didn’t go somewhere he could be proud. The question was meant to illicit a response from the OP, one in which I hoped he might realize there are still reasons to be proud of the United States. But, looking back, I can see in this age of perpetual hurt and sensitive feelings, there are those who might have seen my words as a demand he leave. They weren’t but shrug. Folks are going to be butt-hurt if they want.

However, it was the “you can’t be a patriot unless you post your discharge papers and a photo in uniform like I just did” attitude that got to me. First, this wasn’t from the OP. This was from someone coming to his defense. Someone who put words in my mouth and the mouths of others. Someone who, until another member of the military basically put him in his place, not once said there were other ways to show your patriotism. Even then, he made only a half-hearted attempt to back away from what had been said.

Do I like where we are politically right now? Hell no. I don’t like either of the major candidates. Both scare the hell out of me when I think about what they can do to this country, especially if they love the executive order as much as our current president and some in the past have. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t still believe this is the greatest country on the earth. Sure, there are problems. Yes, many of them are serious. But guess what? We’ve faced problems before and have managed to survive and grow as a country and we will again.

What people have to understand is that neither Trump nor Clinton are the United States. We are. Each and every one of us. We hold the responsibility to keep moving this country forward. How do we do that? By serving the country in whatever role we can — be that through military service, professional choices, volunteering, or whatever. We also do it by voting. There are a lot of other offices on the ballot this year besides the president and vice-president. If you don’t like who is running for president, remember that as you vote for your senators and representatives. Vote in those who can and will override presidential vetoes, who can and will present legislation to limit or overturn actions taken by executive orders. Vote for those on the state and local level who will impact your daily lives. That is patriotism in one form.

Hold your representatives responsible for their actions — and inactions. In his time in office, President Obama has issued 12 vetoes. Only one of them has been overridden by Congress. George W. Bush had the same number of vetoes and 4 were overridden. Clinton had 37 vetoes and only 2 of them were overridden. Look at those vetoes, who was in Congress then and now and did they act in your best interest and in the best interest of your district or state — as well as the country — when they allowed those vetoes to stand. Then ask yourself, if those same Congress critters are still in office, if they need to continue holding office.

As for those of you condemning Trump because of statements made more than 10 years ago, yes, the statements are horrible. But ask yourself this: do you want things you said 10 or 20 or even more years ago brought up and held against you now? NBC has suspended Billy Bush because of that tape, for comments he made long before he went to work at the Today Show. Remember the saying about glass houses before your own house comes crumbling down around you.

But that is going afield from my original premise. Patriotism can be shown in many ways, including questioning the way our country is run. Part of what makes this country great is the fact we can question our leaders’ actions and not fear the jackboots coming in the dead of night to drag us away. However, when you say you no longer have pride in the country, you need to step back and ask yourself what you really mean. Are you no longer proud of the country, of the ideals that formed it, or are you not proud of actions being taken by people within the country?

I am not proud of unjustified police shootings. I am not proud of actions by our politicians that lead to the unnecessary deaths of our troops or others who serve. I am not proud when mistakes lead to the deaths of civilians. I am not proud of those who see others as inferior to themselves based solely on color, race, creed, sexual preference, etc. But those are people. Not the country. For those people in the government who act in ways I’m not proud of, I have a recourse. It’s called my vote. I plan to make use of it. Do you?


  1. I appreciate the attitude that you and Sarah portrayed on the Facebook post. You are right that patriotism is not restricted to those in the military. As a soldier (albeit retired) I do get perturbed when another service member denigrates the country they are sworn to serve.

    1. There are some veterans that I listen to very respectfully – both for their service, and that they have actually been in something other than a hotel room in other countries. There are others that have only been in the States, or a REMF on a base that might as well be in the States. Those – well, some additional attention, at least for how the military works, but not so much on what they think about foreign or domestic affairs, no more than a random always-civilian.

      I give the same respect to a naturalized citizen – whether they’ve served in our military or not. They have a real basis for comparison; better than mine, who has only studied other cultures, other histories – not lived them.

  2. Ever read Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”? Having been in a couple of discussions with other vets lately, younger ones, and had this come up both times this came up. After the fact, both times, I thought it funny.

    It is and it isn’t. It’s tragic. When people that have given the oath we gave {and never un-oathed}, the portion that counts:

    “To protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.

    When folks that have served their country, and have taken that oath, can consider throwing it all away and changing the meaning of citizenship, something’s really wrong.

    Fortunately there’s no organization, just angry and upset vets.

    And on a selfish note, fortunately I’m sixty-five, and too old to be much good in another conflict, this one domestic. This is one time I can say that I fell fortunate to have lived the bulk of my life when I did. I feel for the younger folks.

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