You remember when Vice-President Joe Biden said it’s time “to be patriotic…time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut,” when talking about more Americans paying higher and higher federal income taxes? Or when Michelle Obama stirred controversy in 2008 when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” when talking about her husband’s growing campaign to be President?
And more recently, did you read where former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick (who chooses to kneel instead of stand for the national anthem) is being praised by many in the media as being the most “patriotic” of all Americans because he’s exercising his freedom of speech by kneeling. There’s even a civil rights rally being planned, in honor of him.
Really? Well, none of that is patriotic – from Joe Biden to Michelle Obama to Colin Kaepernick – not to me, at least. In fact, the dictionary defines patriotism this way: love for or devotion to one’s country.
So, how patriotic are you really? Do you only feel “love or devotion” to your country during certain times? Such as only when Congress passes legislation you approve of (such as raising taxes on the rich), or when a court decision is handed down that supports your position on an issue (such as on gun control or abortion)? Or do you only “feel” patriotic when your candidate gets elected to the White House (instead of wanting to blow it up when your candidate doesn’t)?
You see, someone who insists they are patriotic in these ways, even when they are disrespectful or disloyal to their country, is like a husband who insists he’s faithfully devoted to his wife, but only when he’s happy with her. That’s just doesn’t work. Like a marriage, patriotism is all about unconditional love and devotion.
Some may ask, “Devoted to what?” Well, America was founded upon an idea that, “All men are created equal” and as patriotic Americans, we are devoted to this idea, regardless of where we were born, which political party controls the White House, or Congress, which laws are signed into law, or vetoed. And even despite the injustices of the past.
We were the first country established – not by ethnicity or conquest – but by this philosophy, and unfortunately, too many younger Americans simply don’t know what America is, and what she represents. And it shows. Young adults rank among the least willing to say they are extremely proud to be Americans – and they represent the largest decline in American pride, since 2003.
Perhaps that is because American history is no longer required in many high schools throughout the country. Large numbers of Americans graduate without even the most basic sense of what it means to be an American. Is it any wonder that more and more young Americans don’t feel a sense of pride in our country?
And like a domino-effect, this lack of understanding of our American history diminishes the importance of civic duties, such as voting, serving in the military, volunteering in your community, and so on – all of which are suffering declining participation in our country, with each passing year.
But that’s not the worst of it. The absence of American history in our schools is bad enough, but when schools are teaching that America is an imperialist, corporate-driven oppressor – well, that’s a different story, altogether.
As a result, faith in the American dream is non-existent for many young Americans. They have also seen first-hand the crash of the housing market, small businesses crumble, and double-digit unemployment rates. Going to college has only resulted in massive amounts of debt and landed them jobs where they can’t possibly earn enough to pay it all back, and the country is currently more than $19 trillion in debt.
But remember this, about patriotism, whether everything is going your way, or not: Our soldiers and sailors don’t take an oath to a person. They don’t swear allegiance to a political party or individual state. They promise to risk their lives to protect a document, a contract, and an idea that “all men are created equal.”
And if we want our next generation of Americans to do the same, and to love this country as much as we do, then we need to teach our children early where we’ve been, so they’ll understand better where we can go.
We can’t “unteach” those young Americans who are the least willing to say they are extremely proud to be Americans, and we can’t start over either. So, in the words of Zig Ziglar, let’s begin now, and make a new ending.