The Many Manifestations of Patriotism by Jane Staats


As Memorial Day nears, it is interesting to observe the many ways that patriotism is demonstrated in the US. The different expressions of love for our country are as diverse as Americans. Patriotism crosses party lines and blurs lines defining our differences.

Memorial Day parades and Fourth of July fireworks are community-wide displays of patriotism in many towns, including Hillsborough. We sing the national anthem at many events, especially sports events, and I get goose bumps every time. And what is more American than going to a baseball game and eating a hot dog (without ketchup, of course)!

When I walk or drive throughout Hillsborough, I see many residences proudly displaying the US flag. I also see many cars sporting bumper stickers supporting a certain candidate or issue. A woman may wear a flag pin on her sari or a boy may wear a t-shirt proclaiming “USA.”

Love of country is reflected in the hard work ethic and proud uniqueness of each rugged individualist, and also in the spirit of Americans working as unified groups for the sake of our country.

People engage in spirited (sometimes heated!) discussions about issues affecting  our country and our communities. Around the family dinner table and at the local bar with friends and strangers, we delve into and analyze and dissect the many facets of a single issue – because we care. Because we love our country. And then many of us follow through and vote! (I look forward to the day when we routinely talk about voter turnouts of 90%. I can dream, can’t I?)

Throughout the span of our country’s existence, people have proven their patriotism by volunteering in their communities, donating to charities, supporting war efforts, and making sacrifices during wartime. Everyday Americans have performed acts ranging from stoically cutting back on rations during World War II to mowing the lawn of a family whose parent is serving in the military in Iraq.

Some patriotic actions are borne from concern and disappointment. Many people want the country they love to be even better, so they engage in sit-ins, political speeches, marches, and protests. They attend town halls and contact their congresspersons. They write letters to the editor and vent on Facebook. They create art that is challenging and provocative. We can freely criticize our country and our leaders – and the key word there is “freely.” Criticism and protests are a living and breathing advertisement of our rights to free speech and to assemble – fundamental to being American. Indeed, protests are a classic form of American patriotism: our country began as one huge protest, exemplified by such events as the Tea Party and, ultimately, the Revolutionary War.

Many Americans have proven an immense love for our country by serving in the military. Most of them have given up a significant chunk of their young lives serving our country, rushing into hell, and risking their lives. Many of them have then suffered serious injuries, and some of those injuries have lasted a lifetime.

My father was a proud US Army veteran; he fought in the Korean War. He continued to show his love for our country throughout his life, ranging from taking his family to historic sites to writing letters to the editor expressing his opinions about issues. He passed away in September 2007. I was a high school math teacher at the time, and I had a homeroom consisting of very sweet, but quiet, freshmen. They rarely talked, even to each other, during the five-minute homeroom period. They stood for the Pledge of Allegiance every day, but they, like many high school students, did not recite it. On February 8, 2008, I told them that it was my father’s birthday, and that he had been a very patriotic man. I asked them to say the Pledge in honor of him. I emphasized that I was in no way requiring it of them, but that I would appreciate it. Every single person said the Pledge, and loudly so! Every single person but one – I was too choked up to say it.

But the ultimate expression of patriotism is dying for our country. Giving up one’s life for our country transcends all other acts, and all words. On Memorial Day, let us not forget to honor those who gave their lives for our country, for us Americans. Actually, let us not forget to honor them every day.

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