What Is a Patriot?

What is a patriot?

It’s the time of year when Americans like to show off our patriotism, big time. We wave (and sometimes wear) the stars and stripes. We sing patriotic songs. We hang red, white and blue bunting from porch rails. We stock up on firecrackers and bottle rockets and maybe even some Roman candles. We make sure our propane cylinders are full so we can grill all-American hamburgers and hot dogs.

Observing these Fourth of July celebration preparations–and participating in some of them, though I’m too big a chicken to use a gas grill—set me to thinking. What, exactly, is patriotism? And what is a patriot?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a patriot as “a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support or defend it.” Likewise, patriotism is defined as “love or devotion to one’s country.” Because these definitions leave plenty of room for interpretation, I decided it would be fitting, on this weekend before Independence Day, to write a column expressing how I feel about patriotism. Surprisingly, I found that defining what a patriot DOES was hard. Defining what a patriot DOESN’T do was a whole lot easier. So here goes.

  • A patriot doesn’t harm our natural environment or turn a blind eye toward those who do.
  • A patriot doesn’t value the right to own an assault weapon over the right of the public to be safe from mass murder.
  • A patriot doesn’t ignore the needs of the homeless and hungry.
  • A patriot doesn’t show up to vote without at least a passing familiarity with the candidates and issues.
  • A patriot doesn’t favor putting stumbling blocks, be they gerrymandered districts or laws making it difficult to vote early or by mail, on the paths of citizens legally entitled to vote.
  • A patriot doesn’t display swastikas in neighborhoods where synagogues are located (or anywhere else).
  • A patriot doesn’t try to dictate what other people read.
  • A patriot doesn’t believe that what goes on between patients and their doctors is anyone else’s business.
  • A patriot doesn’t think that anyone should be forced to pledge allegiance to the flag or to stand when the national anthem is played.
  • A patriot doesn’t idolize the flag of a nation formed with the sole purpose of seceding from the United States of America.
  • A patriot doesn’t discriminate against others because of their gender or sexual orientation, the color or their skin, the way they worship (or don’t worship) or the language they speak.
  • A patriot doesn’t struggle to distinguish real news from fake news or believe that “alternative facts” are a thing but that historical truths are not.
  • A patriot doesn’t support or defend a losing political candidate/former President’s efforts to overthrow a free and fair election or to steal classified government documents.

To celebrate the 247th birthday of the good old USA, I plan to join other patriots cheering and waving American flags at the children’s Fourth of July parade on the Putnam County courthouse square. Festivities begin Tuesday morning at 10:00. Come on out and enjoy the fun.

(July 1, 2023)