What is Patriotism?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of patriotism is: “a feeling of love for his or her country and supports its authority and interests.”
But, recently, it can be said that how we define patriotism as an American has come under fire. Whether the lines are drawn racially, politically, economically or for some other reason, there seems to be more division in our country than the notion of coming together as countrymen.
What defines a “real” American? Is this concept lost? Forgotten? Fox News recently revealed that entirely too many Americans couldn’t locate Iowa on a map, so how many Americans define patriotism may be even more ambiguous. It’s time to remember why patriotism is important.
While some say history is boring, in order to understand where we are as a country, we have to look at our history. Some people begin understanding patriotism by reading over patriotic quotes which is a good start. If we look back to the origins of our country to say, 1765, when the American territories were ruled by the British government, people living here were upset by unfair taxation. Patrick Henry and others called for the freedom to rule their country the way they saw fit. Sayings like, “Give me liberty or give me death” were heard in many places. In fact, Patrick Henry is credited with helping develop the first 10 amendments of our Constitution. This was clearly a man who understood the definition of patriotism for his time.
Nathan Hale is another notable patriot who was caught and put to death for spying on his newly forming country. Among his last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”. Clearly, this was another early American who had an understanding that defining patriotism was the challenge of all Americans.
But patriotism defined often supersedes political boundaries. There are many native Americans who fought the settlers and army on behalf of their native land and people-many of whom the native Americans viewed as invaders. These men like Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Tecumseh and others fought and died for the values they considered right. Obviously, what they believed was in conflict with the settlers and guarding armies, but it’s not hard to see how patriotism can be defined by standing up for the values and beliefs of your country.
Abraham Lincoln went against the thinking of the day with his Emancipation Proclamation where he freed the slaves. This was a decision that affected the economic situation of millions of Americans. When it comes to defining patriotism, embracing what’s right is often what’s required. In fact, many historians agree that patriotism is defined by our values.
The same could be said about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. Still remembered for his speech in Washington where he proclaimed, “..I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Some Americans viewed his as a threat for these words while still others saw him as a visionary. Either way, his ideas, values and definition of patriotism helped him win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Some people define patriotism by pointing to American military heroes which makes some sense. Our country has a long and proud list of fighting men who have distinguished themselves in battle. Since the creation of the medal in 1861, there are currently around 3400 Medal Of Honor recipients. These men and women have truly demonstrated values consistent with defining patriotism. In fact, it may be the easiest measure of patriotism we have.
What is the true definition of an American and Patriotism? What you have just read defines none and all Patriotism simultaneously. Is it love for country or love of a country’s moral beliefs, policies and foundations? When one says, “I would die for my country,” what exactly is he dying for?
Upon reviewing just a few brief glimpses of American history, one can summize that “Patriotism” is in fact, love for a country’s greater good, or depending on the needs of the particular group, their greater good.
Defining patriotism can be an ambiguous task, but at the Foundation of Patriotism, we believe you first have start defining patriotism with the values that your country holds dear. From there, we can begin to recognize the patriotic behavior that stems from these values. Does the country value honesty, goodness, sacrifice, kindness, peacefulness, etc.? If not, then what values are held in high regard? This is a good beginning to defining patriotism in our country.
Click here to read What Does Patriotism Mean To You?