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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

The Patriot

For some time now I have wanted to write about patriotism and how love of one’s country is viewed today. The recent celebration of Independence Day brought my thoughts into focus, but to be clear, it was not the attempt to turn the celebration into a poor version of the former Soviet Union’s May Day that was the cause. America has had military parades before, filled with ranks of soldiers, sailors, tanks and flyovers. We have welcomed heroes home from war—and to my thinking every man and woman who served was a genuine hero—placing their lives in danger to protect those at home and preserve this sometimes fragile union we call the United States.

What concerns me so are growing partisan expressions regarding who and what is patriotic—especially as it is so often a thinly disguised way to demean those who may hold different political views. Definitions of patriotism based on political perspective are strikingly similar to the way faith was defined in the 16th century. The word Politics itself comes from the French word for policy. Politique described the policy of enforcement –or the lack thereof-- during the period in which religious intolerance-especially among Catholics and Protestants reached its zenith. Some monarchs (though not many) adopted a tolerant policy for those who practiced a different faith than their own, forbidding the death penalty, but such tolerance was the exception in much of the western world.

Today we find much the same attitude among those who believe that their political view of the world is the only one that is true and God given. They are quick to label anyone who disagrees unpatriotic and some are quite prepared to say that those who hold opposing views are undeserving of the same rights and privileges they hold. Reconciling this view with the history of our confederation and the principles on which it was founded is simply impossible. Those who lived and died to found this country and fought for its Independence were fighting precisely this intolerance. Yet we live in a time where such values are either unknown to those who wrap themselves in the flag or are considered irrelevant.

Many of us have seen firsthand in our lifetime where this leads. We have seen the kind of self-righteous behavior that can bring an entire country into compliance with policies designed expressly to persecute others for their faith or political views. Sadly we are not the first, but I hope we are a better people than that. I hope we are good enough to once again stand up when we hear anyone diminish the views of another –diminish another human being as unworthy. I hope we are prepared to remind them that though we may disagree about almost anything we are so fortunate as to live in a country that is tolerant—that accepts our differences and understands that they strengthen our union. That is patriotism—to embrace our country not for its greatness as a military or economic power, but as an enduring example of freedom from persecution.

Taking nothing whatsoever from those who died in defense of our country, I would submit that there are many more patriots among us than we credit. They may or may not have served in the military, they may not hold public office, or be distinguished in any other way save one, they are those who stand for the rights of others, who stand for the principles our founders held so dear that they were willing to put their lives on the line. These people are patriots and I am proud to know them.

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