Sunday, June 15, 2008

Red, White and Blue

Patriotism is defined by Websters as "love for or devotion to one's country". A patriot is defined as "one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests". I could not find a definition of patriot that says, "one who tries to foist his her views of what constitutes patriotism onto others". However it appears that a loud and significant portion of Americans who view themselves as patriots feel it is their right and duty to tell the rest of us how we are supposed to show our support for country.

What ever happened to the thought of "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"? Did America lose the idea of what patriotism is during the Reagan era when some in Congress wanted to enact a flag burning amendment? Or perhaps it was in the aftermath of 9/11 when we collectively decided to ignore real facts and strike out against another country in the name of patriotism. Perhaps it was during the Vietnam ear when the war was fought at home as well. Perhaps it was during the cold war when being a communist was deemed a threat to the American way of life. Whenever it happened, the idea of free speech in this country has been replaced by jingoistic phrases like "America, love it or leave it" and telling anyone you don't agree with to "move back to the Middle East".

If you profess to love America, then you should love the foundation upon which the country was built. The definition of liberty are, "1: the quality or state of being free: a: the power to do as one pleases b: freedom from physical restraint c: freedom from arbitrary or despotic control". The truth of the matter is that the people who often yell the loudest about being patriots are often the first to try and control the actions of those that they don't agree with. There have been sports figures who for various reasons didn't want to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. The outrage across this country was intense. How dare they. They shouldn't be allowed to play. They should be deported. They should move to the middle east. Since when is professing an opposing political belief a crime?

It isn't a crime to hold an unpopular belief, but given the abuse that is hurled at dissenters in current climate, it becomes an almost Herculean display of courage to espouse that belief in public. It was just a couple of years ago when public opposition to the Iraq war would have labeled you as a radical or unpatriotic or a terrorist sympathizer. It is important to remember that this country was founded by brave "Patriots" who believed that citizens should have the right to disagree with their own government. Based on their example, political dissent is not only needed but is indeed the highest form of patriotism that we as Americans can practice. So who is a true "Patriot"? I guess at the end of the day it depends on what your definition of "is" is.

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