Given the current state of affairs of our Republic, discussing what exactly is a patriot is a very important discussion to have.
According to Wikipedia:
“Patriotism is commonly defined as love of and/or devotion to one's country. The word comes from, and Greek patris. However, "patriotism," or the love of one's country, has come to have different meanings over time. Thus, the meaning of patriotism can be highly dependent upon context, geography and philosophy. Although patriotism is presently used in certain vernaculars as a synonym for nationalism, nationalism is not considered an inherent part of patriotism.”
In the US today, the prevailing definition of patriotism is unwavering support for what our leaders in Washington are doing. Someone is “not patriotic” if they question the president, the Iraq war, 911, etc. To sum it up, the message we see on TV, and in our basic culture today, is someone is not a patriot if they disagree with our elected officials in Washington.
What we are being sold as patriotism by our culture is really a more strict definition of nationalism. Strict nationalism has always been a slippery slope to authoritarianism (see Germany 1933 – 1945).
For an alternate reference point to a definition of patriotism, here are some of Thomas Jefferson’s more famous quotes:
“Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism.”
“A little rebellion now and then... is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”
I could argue that our founding fathers should be the benchmark definition of patriotism, but we need to be realistic. The founding fathers were rebels. Everyone that signed the Declaration of Independence signed their own death warrant (if they were captured by the British). For the purposes of this discussion on patriotism, I think the definition of patriotism is best described by the Greek philosopher Socrates, "patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be."
I would expand Socrates definition of patriotism as such: A patriot does not attempt to make a country the best it can be for himself, but for all of his fellow countrymen. An act of self sacrifice where the ultimate goal of a patriot is to make life better for his fellow citizens.
I think that patriotism and being a patriot is crucial to the survival of the US Republic. Each and every American is responsible for the continuation of our representative democracy. I will jump back to Thomas Jefferson for the basic reason I am writing this piece.
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Many of us express anything from disgust, to disdain for our current political system. We think “the powerful and the greedy control everything, it has always been this way, and there is nothing I can do”, but it is our duty as Americans to look to preserve our Republic in the ways we see best.
We can be a better patriot in many ways. The first way is to educate yourself, so that you understand our current world situation. The internet is an amazing tool in that you are free to research a topic, get widely differing views, and make up your own mind what makes the most sense. If you think you can educate yourself by watching TV, forget it, you are not given all of the relevant facts, as the media has to condense very complex issues into 30 second sound bites.
What am I trying to say? The future of our country is in our hands. We are at a very critical junction in our democracy, and without people standing up and trying to make our country better, this country, as we know it, is finished. Clearly our country is on the wrong track, when they called one of the most damaging pieces of legislation to our constitution the USA “Patriot Act.”
Thomas Jefferson offered a number of warnings such as this: