by Rosie Lee
What it means to me to be patriotic.
|To be patriotic, according to most dictionaries, is to display a devotion to one’s country. It is very much more. It is a devotion to the people of one’s country. It is a commitment to represent and uphold the defining culture of one’s country. It is an identity versus recognition of a heritage.
It is not enough to say you are patriotic. You are obliged to display your patriotism for all to see. Symbols, the ubiquitous observable evidence of patriotism, provide an object of recognition among patriots. Flags. Bumper stickers. Pins crowding bills on ball caps and breastplates on vests. You connect with those who are like minded. You recognize them by the shared paraphernalia with which you adorn your everyday lives.
It is not enough to display the symbols of your patriotism. You are compelled to espouse the ideology of your country, a culture defined by ancestors with no real understanding of the impact of their proclamation. Tolerance. Opportunity. Freedom. You live by these principles, teach them to your children, cheer them with your countrymen.
It is not enough to wave your flag and cheer your country. You come together in times of need, grief, and achievement. You become a mass of one. An Australian. A Malaysian. A Russian. An American. Individually you may be Italian, Polish, Norwegian, or Latino. As one, you are your country. You recognize your individuality but champion your unity.
To be patriotic, you must be willing to abrogate your own needs, your own desires, even your own safety, for your compatriots. Without reservation. Defying all odds. Expecting no return. Hoping against necessity, you stand ready nonetheless.
The country of your devotion is irrelevant. You respect the right of others to pledge devotion to their own. You defend their right to symbolize, espouse, and cheer an identity unique to them. You remain vigilant to protect their freedoms as you enjoy yours. Still, you remain forever protective of your own.
This is what it is to be a patriot.