Patriotism: Defending Freedom
***This is an opinion article that was written after reading five short articles. This is a personal view on what it means to be an American Patriot***
In our world today many rigid definitions surround the meaning of patriotism. Authors and scholars alike continually ponder this issue. Many conflicting definitions and views of what is means to be a patriot are given by American media and scholars. In order for the American Patriot Organization to award a person for outstanding patriotism for his or her country its members must look beyond just the stereotypical meaning of patriotism. To do this, one must take into account the many aspects when determining the definition of an American Patriot.
The only sure way to achieve patriotism is through democracy and support of human rights. Many people would define any soldier of the United States as a patriot. However, a person doesn't have to leave his or her family to fight in another country in order to show patriotism. Instead of fighting for the country, which is essentially supporting the war, Americans can focus on bettering the country in other ways. In our current day society, the people that donated money, food or clothes to relief efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which devastated New Orleans and Texas were no less patriotic than the soldiers that went off to fight the war in Iraq. This is the argument that Howard Zinn, a professor, political theorist, social activist and author makes. His article, Dying for the Government is a critical reaction to the current war in Iraq as well as the notion of patriotism as the righteousness used to justify the war. He argues that, “When a government recklessly expands the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power, always claiming that its motives are pure and moral, it is violating its promise to the country. War is almost always a breaking of that promise.” Zinn states that the GIs who have died in the war have not died for their country, but instead for the government who support and promote the war.
Patriotism is recognizing and being thankful for freedom. It is important for any person know the value of living in a democracy. As a popular saying goes, a person often doesn't realize the value of something until they no longer have it. The same goes with freedom. In The America I Love, Elie Wiesel, author and professor at Boston University, native of Romania and a Holocaust survivor stresses the importance of freedom, and understanding the concept of truly being free. He also shows a glimpse of the other side of the picture, which he had himself experienced at one time. “One cannot but feel grateful to the young Americans who leave their families, some to lose their lives, in order to bring to Iraq the first rays of hope without which no people can imagine the happiness of welcoming freedom.”
An American patriot is one who realizes the value of freedom and seeks to assist and restore freedom to those who have lost it. It is important to keep in mind those people in our country who have lost the freedom that they once experienced. is restoring freedom to those who have lost it. The simple act of giving to a neighbor in need means just as much a soldier fighting in a foreign country. An “invincible army” or “flourishing economy” aren't what makes a country great, Wiesel argues, but the ideals that transcend so much farther beyond that, “Hence America's desire to help those who have lost their freedom to conquer it again. America's credo might read as follows: For an individual, as for a nation to be free is an admirable duty—but to help others become free is even more admirable.” This is done through the offering of help and hope extended from one American to another.
Patriotism is not blindly believing what others say and accepting it as truth. Pat Tillman is one example. After his death, the media glorified his sacrifice of a career in the National Football League after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in order to fight the war on terrorism However, the war in Iraq had been planned before the attacks on U.S. soil and started not because of the terrorist attacks but because of U.S. control of oil reserves. Such is the argument given by Gary Sudborough in the article Pat Tillman: Hero or Wasted Life? Sudborough, a graduate of Purdue University and California State University explains how many throughout history have “exhibited great courage in combat, although often fighting for mistaken, spurious reasons or even against their own best interests.” A person cannot honestly say that these people are patriots. The media continually emphasized the attacks and enlistment in the various branches of the military rose tremendously as many vowed to seek vengeance and bring the evildoers to justice. Little or nothing was said about the true reason for troops in Iraq. Sudborough states, “It has been my perception from watching war after war involving the United States that the corporate media always attempt to glorify each and every war and build public support for it, no matter how ridiculous the justifications for the war or how illegal, immoral, and destructive the war happens to be.”
Patriotism isn't about going along with whatever the media or government says is right or wrong. The true heroes are not the ones like Pat Tillman who immediately enlisted to serve his country based on false motives, but those who take the time to determine just who and what they are fighting for. Like Sudborough stated, "The real heroes are people like Ron Kovic, Stan Goff, and other veterans who have taken the time and effort to discover the truth about recent wars and the nature of imperialism. They are willing to oppose U.S. interventions in other countries and suffer the ridicule and disapprobation of American society for challenging some of its most cherished myths." Myths such as the continual glorification of war and that the United States only fights for democracy, freedom and equality.
An American Patriot is one who is willing to support the values of democracy on which our nation was founded. A person who does not simply rush into action because of what the media or the government tells them is right or wrong but first finds out the facts of the situation before choosing a course of action. An American Patriot is open and honest when it comes to determining what is truly right or wrong for the country, and which issues are significant enough to fight for. However, he or she also realizes that there are other ways to support the country here at home. Recognizing and assisting the needs of others, especially those who've lost the freedom they once had are essential components of what makes up a true patriot.
It's important to take these thoughts into account before trying to commend a specific individual as an American Patriot. It is not an award that can be taken lightly as many people can qualify as a patriot. In fact, it's evident that many of the people a person meets everyday can be deemed a patriot based on the qualities listed above.