I am taking back a word.
It is a word I grew up understanding. It is a word that is very American. It is a word that many of us have used to describe ourselves.
That word is patriotic.
The word patriotic, and in another form “patriot,” have been stolen by people who use it to beat others over the head during political arguments, and that cannot stand. Much like the word hero, which is used to describe way too many people these days, the word patriot has been grabbed by one end of the political spectrum when it should be owned by all Americans.
So, what is a patriotic person? What makes a person a patriot? Well, I would say this person must love his or her country and not be afraid to show their love for this country and defend it.
By that, I don’t mean wearing an American flag T-shirt and loving Nascar. A flag on your lapel does not make you a patriot or patriotic.
What I do mean is a person who stands up for the ideals of what America is and should be – for all of its people. And that means right, left, white, brown, black, religious, non-religious – you name it. All Americans matter. No single group or political persuasion matters more than any other.
It seems to me that we think being a patriot these days means protecting a certain way of thinking; of sticking with the status quo of the party in power.
I would say that is not a patriot, or being patriotic at all.
Quite the opposite.
People who are patriotic tend to be agitators. The real patriots, the original patriots, didn’t keep their mouths shut. Patriotism means action.
Now, this action doesn’t have to be violent, of course. Civil disobedience is an American tradition, and one that has led to great changes for our nation.
I support a person standing up for their Second Amendment rights. I also support teens who saw friends murdered in front of them rallying against gun violence and seeking change.
I don’t have to agree with people to support their right to protest on one side of an issue or another. And one side is certainly not more patriotic than the other. The fact that anyone takes the time and effort to speak their minds in a loud, public way is very American in my book.
Now, I am not saying that hate speech is patriotic. In fact, I would say that people who angrily rant negatively about people of color or other religions, for example, are not patriots at all. Again, that would be the opposite of patriotism to me.
Disagreement is the American way. But we have lost the ability to even hear the other side. Now we just turn our heads and pretend they are not patriotic.
Wrapping yourself too tightly in your metaphorical flag can apparently cut off the blood supply to your brain.
Having a strong opinion and an open mind are very American traits. We all want pretty much the same thing, but using words like “patriot” to cleave a path through what passes as discourse these days does no one any good.