Patriotism Is Dead

Hi there. I’m Kitty, the blogger who writes most of the posts here on this site. Normally I write on behalf of Gadsden Guns as a whole, but today, I feel compelled to speak for myself from the perspective of a young person. Normally, age doesn’t matter one bit when it comes to discussing ideas, but my generation is getting a bad reputation, so I thought I might join in on the conversation on behalf of all the twenty-somethings who aren’t idiots…and there are a lot of us who aren’t idiots, but the way.

Washington DC 9.12.2009_0039You see, there is a popular idea among young Americans that patriotism is an outdated sentiment, that pride in one’s country is a result of brainwashing. For most of us, after all, citizenship is simply an accident of birth. What makes a person born here any better than someone born anywhere else? Isn’t that the same thing as feeling superior because of skin color or natural intelligence level? Patriotism, then, is not only pointless, but actually wrong, according to that logic. Besides, with the general negative view of politicians and all the outright corruption in government, there’s not really all that much to be proud of. According to a lot of people in my generation, patriotism is dead.

I’m not one of those people, by the way. Before you lose hope for the future of the nation, keep in mind that there are probably just as many of us who still consider ourselves patriots. (I’d love to go on about how the different generations are really more alike than they recognize, and petty differences like slang and recreational choices are completely irrelevant to the core of human nature, but that’s another topic altogether, so I’ll stay off of that soapbox for now.) The belief that patriotism is a thing of the past, or that it’s a manipulation tactic, actually does have some basis in valid facts. Blind patriotism is sometimes used as a tool for politicians to grab power. That being said, it seems to me that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding out there about what patriotism actually is.

Let’s clear some things up, shall we?

Before discussing what it means to be a patriot, it’s important to understand what it DOESN’T mean.

  • It does NOT mean feeling superior over people born in other countries.
  • It does NOT mean supporting every act or law passed by the government.
  • It does NOT mean believing that your country is necessarily on the right track.
  • It does NOT mean idealizing or romanticizing your history.
  • It does NOT mean glossing over historical mistakes, nor does it mean that those mistakes define you.
  • It does NOT mean others should be excluded from becoming citizens.

A German patriot is not a Nazi because of a certain pride in his or her country as a whole, in the same way that I can be proud to be American while at the same time understanding that slavery, Japanese detention camps, torture of political prisoners, and attacking peaceful protesters with fire hoses are all unacceptable. Pride in one’s country does not mean pride in everything it has ever done. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal.

Red Rock (10)Now, as for that accident of birth thing, I do realize that I basically hit the genetic lottery to be born in a place where I was likely to grow up healthy with a wealth of opportunity available. As far as I know, there was nothing I could or did do in the great unknown before my appearance on this earth that influenced where I was born.

HOWEVER…

I DO choose every day to be American.

If that sounds silly to you, consider this: I was born in Virginia, and now I live in Nevada because I made a choice to live somewhere else. I could have just as simply chosen to move to Italy or Botswana or Canada or Colombia and renounced my American citizenship. Every day, all over the world, people who are unhappy with the country in which they were born decide to do something about it, and they take action to change citizenship to places like Canada and Switzerland and the USA, sometimes at great personal risk. The truth is that citizenship is largely a matter of choice. With a few exceptions worldwide (like the situation of people in North Korea) a person either chooses to stay where they were born, or to not stay where they were born. It sounds exceedingly simple, and it is, but that’s they way things work. If you haven’t chosen to do something different, you’ve automatically chosen to stay the same, so every adult citizen the USA is, quite literally, a citizen by choice.

You and I have the right to choose not to be American at any point in our adult lives. In my case, I made a conscious decision to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to me by the circumstances of my birth, and I struck out on my own to make a life for myself in the American economic system. Maybe some people aren’t doing anything with their American citizenship, but I am. And, you know what? That’s something I’m pretty darned proud of. I’m not just proud because I happened to be born here – I’m proud because I’m doing something with it. That, to me, is the root of what real patriotism is.

Patriotism has everything to do with potential. It’s not a stagnant thing, but an active desire to participate in the community around us. A patriot is proud of the accomplishments of his/her country, and has an optimistic outlook on its future, much in the same way that a parent is proud of her/his child’s achievements without having to overlook the failures. And, just as a parent continues to provide love and guidance throughout a lifetime, a patriot takes whatever action possible to keep a country moving in the right direction, without ever losing faith that things can work out well.

Washington DC 9.12.2009_0033It’s not just on a national scale, either. One of the most patriotic things a person can do is to take advantage of their rights as a citizen. By starting a privately owned business, owning firearms, or writing a blog post about personal political views, you’re taking an active role and participating in your rights as an American, which is perhaps the most poignant expression of patriotic pride a person can pronounce! It’s okay to take advantage of your circumstances. There’s nothing morally wrong with exercising a right you didn’t personally fight for – somebody else sacrificed on your behalf, whether it was an ancestor who actively sought out American citizenship or a soldier in the American Revolution that formed this country.

And, you know what? It’s okay to respect other countries for their unique advantages, too. It’s okay to decide you’d rather live in Canada or England or Portugal if you want to. There’s no shame in choosing a different kind of life. In fact, if you do something like that, you’re probably way better off than most people simply because you’ve taken active control over your lifestyle, a thing that so many people never think to do.

Being a patriot has nothing to do with hate or a sense of superiority. It has everything to do with recognizing the choice you’ve made and taking action, using the advantages available to you or seeking out something better. Yeah, maybe I hit the genetic lottery being born here, but I’m doing something worthwhile with my jackpot. Are you?

What do you think?

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