Patriotism: love of one’s country.
— Dictionary definition
This seemed like a good week to think about patriotism, though I have to admit I’ve lived through many Independence Days without feeling a need to think about it.
Maybe it was last month’s vacation in western Pennsylvania, where my own patriotism grew with the prevailing attitudes: the patriotic holidays, with flags flying from most (it seems in memory) front porches or stoops, bicycle spokes decorated with red, white and blue crepe paper, and the understanding that one places one’s hand over one’s heart when the flag passes by during the parade.
We said the Pledge of Allegiance every school morning before classes began, were told stories about George Washington and the cherry tree, Honest Abe walking miles to return change to a customer who overpaid at his store. We learned to sing not just the national anthem, but “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
So if someone asked me if I consider myself patriotic, I’d have said yes, at any time in my life. Is this true of most Americans today? I started with my grandchildren, who often help me with columns: “Do you consider yourself patriotic?”
They were packing for a camping trip, so the conversation was necessarily short, but I learned something interesting: my grandson said he didn’t really consider himself patriotic because he isn’t into politics. Not surprising that at age 13 he isn’t into politics, but it did startle me to learn that he sees the word “patriotic” as one that is used in political debate, an attack on someone whose politics are different.
He’s right, isn’t he: and this is something new. In some American circles, being considered “patriotic” would be politically incorrect, in the category of “Tea Party”, always going on about the Constitution and the national debt. As a Tea Partier myself, I think some of us might consider those not concerned about these things unpatriotic: why would anyone who loved America not support the U.S. Constitution and fiscal responsibility?