A Retrospective on the Meaning of Patriotism

I recently wrote a column for the Minaret in which I stated that it is still alright to be proud to be an American. I am aware that the impression given was that I felt that America can do no wrong, and that it is unpatriotic to not support America unequivocally.

I stated that you should love this country, for its ideals and what it stands for, but I did not suggest that the government should be followed without question, regardless of who is the president or a congressional member without having the intelligence to decide for yourself what you think about a particular issue.

I believe that you can love a country despite its flaws, and that through the admiration and patriotism of it, you can work to change it. Marian Wright Edelman said that “you just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”

I think that is a great statement by which any American who truly is patriotic can live by. One of the best ways to effect those positive changes we all wish to bring about is to vote, and I question how many of the people who are truly unhappy with events these days actually vote.

The voting turnout, especially in the realm of college students is usually low. This low turnout is puzzling especially when campus activists work hard to focus around general talking points such as global warming or the Iraq war.

I am all for freedom of speech, but one thing that is absolutely deplorable is those that think that by just rallying around some talking point, they will cause any long term change.

Protests, rallies, and sign-waving are without question fixtures in American politics, but if someone cannot be moved to vote to uphold their beliefs, their voice is lost and the strength of their convictions questioned.

To those that question this, I ask what is wrong about demanding that those who seek change work actively to bring it about in a way that our Constitution directly allows them to.

I am not happy with everything that is going on with the Bush administration or with Congress in general, and I intend, just like in every election that I have been able to vote in, to make my voice heard and to vote for people and issues that I feel can bring America back to the path it should be on.

If I choose to not vote and don’t like something I could have voted on, then that is my problem, and not that of whomever I dislike. People seem to have gotten caught up in the new Hollywood gossip of the 21st century, except that it is not Hollywood but Capitol Hill.

It is now more important to learn about the conviction of Senator Craig or Bush’s most grammatically correct statement of his presidency. When was the last time immigration, crime, taxes, or anything remotely related to something productive was discussed on any serious level?

It is sad that we have sunk to the point where American politics are no better than tabloids. It is through this lack of irreverence that the very notion of patriotism has become associated with ignorance.

I love this country more than just about anything, the one thing that stands above it being my religious beliefs, but at the same time, I don’t sit back and let it run on its own.

I am chomping at the bit to go out there and contribute what I can, and I think everyone should want the same, but I do not believe that it can unless people actually first can say that they love America, vote, and then do whatever they can, in that order.

America has its share of problems; however the great thing about this country is that each individual person is given the freedom to fix those things which are wrong.

Remember this when you look at countries like Venezuela where opposing viewpoints face government sanction.

I believe that the Jeffersonian ideals seen in the Declaration of Independence where it states that “whenever a government [or policy] loses the support of the people, it is the right of the people to change or abolish it.”

Change is the only way these days that has any merit, and I think that is the calling of any patriot. Don’t just sit there, do something, and do it for the right reason – because you believe in what this country was, is and what it can truly be.

We are that “beacon on a hill,” a place where freedom can and will be celebrated, and where every voice can be heard. It is time that we all believe that and do something with it.

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