By Tom McDonald
Patriotism isn’t one-dimensional.
You won’t find it by wrapping yourself in the American flag. That really says nothing.
And you won’t be saying much by shouting out that the U.S. is the greatest nation on Earth. That’s really just a matter of perspective.
And while it’s important to lift up the military veterans among us, even that’s not enough. Vets should have an honored place in our society because of the tremendous sacrifices they’ve made, but that’s not the only way to serve your country.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a patriot, but he never donned a uniform. Instead, he pushed this nation to be what it professed but didn’t practice. We’re better off because he touched the heart and soul of America.
Freedom. Justice. Equality. Those are America’s ideals. If you are working to advance them, you too are a patriot.
I think there’s been a decline in U.S. patriotism these days, especially at the highest and most powerful levels. In the nation’s capital, politicians align themselves with their parties at the expense of what’s best for the nation. And while we’re used to seeing this mindset during elections, it’s now part of the governing process itself. It didn’t used to be that way, but we see it everyday now.
Meanwhile, in the world of big business and finance, greed has become the national standard. Profit has become the sole justification for all sorts of destructive activity, and to hell with the greater good. America has become monetized, while the middle class shrinks and the underclass grows. Love of country isn’t even part of the game anymore.
Even though corporations have been granted personhood, “real” Americans are a bit more authentic. Outside the Beltway and off Wall Street, you’ll find generous people, more inclusive than exclusive; vitriolic at times, but patriotic in their love not just for their country but for their countrymen as well.
I consider myself patriotic, but in a way that irritates many of my fellow Americans. I happen to believe that, as a journalist, I contribute to the democratic process by informing people about what’s going on around them. And if that takes exposing America’s ugly underbelly, so be it. An informed citizenry needs to know.
Of course, others show their patriotism in their own way. Voting is a basic patriotic act, but real patriots go further than that. They see a problem in our country — often localized to where they live — and they get to work on a solution. I’ve seen them everywhere I’ve lived in this great nation, and even when I disagree with them, I admire their desire to make America a better place to live.
Now, let’s all go out and make it better. Then our patriotism will really be showing.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: