We, Patriots?

What exactly is patriotism? From whence does it come? What is its purpose? Is it an important value to possess? Everyone from PA students to President Bush at least claims to know what honoring one’s country means. Do correct answers to the above questions even exist? The simple answer would be “no.” Why, then, does everyone feel that he can conclusively define patriotism, an abstract concept that varies significantly among individuals? Those with the audacity to judge the level of another’s patriotism will surely stumble into hypocrisy and close-mindedness. Patriotism is a subjective trait. Some believe that flying a flag on their houses and singing the national anthem everyday will make them patriotic. Others believe that committing their lives to the defense of their nation is patriotic. Still others maintain that to be patriotic is to be politically active, advocating the values they think to be right by protesting and lobbying. All of these actions are patriotic. However, patriotism is not simply waving a flag and singing an anthem. It is not even necessarily supporting the government unconditionally. That one’s government wages war does not mean that it is correct to the last degree, but there are many people who believe that the only way to be patriotic is to be a flag-waving, anthem-singing, unconditional supporter of the U.S. government and its policies. Such people have accused firemen of displaying anti-Americanism after September 11 for removing a flag from their truck. Although the flag inconveniently covered the water hose controls, the firemen were still reprimanded. Similarly, men and women have accused those who turn their back on the flag in protest of the government of being grotesquely unpatriotic. These belligerent accusers have made out those who have voiced dissent from the government to be anarchist firebrands. During the months of build up to the conflict in Iraq, American sentiment towards France turned sour, and French-American relations are at arguably their lowest point since the mutually beneficial alliance established in our Revolutionary War. Around the country, Americans have been expressing their dislike for France in many different ways. In our nation’s capital, for example, French fries have been renamed “freedom fries,” while in Atlanta, restaurants continue to dump French wine into local ponds. The rate of American travel to France has decreased. Can anyone justify this anti-French reaction? Many are relying on false patriotism to attempt to do so. Recently, the administration has used patriotism to quiet its political rivals. At this point in time, many Republicans are alleging that it is unpatriotic to be against the war or the President’s policies. The Republicans have gone as far as using the propensity of the American public to be patriotic in order to push issues such as tax cuts, oil drilling in Alaska, and judicial appointments. Patriotism has truly emerged as a catalyst for the Republican agenda. There are certain people who claim to be patriotic and most certainly are not. Patriotism is not the view that America should do whatever is in its best interest regardless of how it may affect the rest of the world and its people. Indeed, Americans have a commitment to their own country; however, that commitment does not transcend their commitment to the human race as citizens of the world. Yes, patriotism is good. Of course it is important to commit oneself to one’s country; however, one should never cross the line of absurdity to do so. A matter of personal choice and at best a loose term, one’s sense of “patriotism” should not be subject to the judgment of others.