Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What makes a patriot?

Throughout my adult years hints of this very question have come to mind but I don’t think it was until the past six months that the various aspects of this seemingly simple question have coalesced in my little brain. Behaviors, politics, military issues and other factors have nudged at my beliefs.  I could either dismiss such questions outright in blind comfortable denial or if I were truly honest with myself it would give me cause to think, question or even change my position.
Which has led me to the heart of this question – What makes a patriot? What does it mean to be patriotic? Is simply putting a flag outside your door or a magnetic ribbon on your SUV good enough? Is someone who wears a t-shirt emblazoned with “USA #1” also a patriot or jingoist? Where is the line between being patriotic and being overly nationalistic? Xenophobic? Is a person patriotic if they think “This is America, love it or leave it!” Or is the person who thinks “There are some problems here that really need changed” more patriotic?  I ask these questions because at the heart of it I have ideas of what a patriot is but I’m not sure where the line in the sand really is. Who is the patriot and who is just along for the ride?
Recently I have heard something like “You can be one of us if you’re a true patriot”. But now what does that mean? Does that infer untrue patriots are lurking? Aren’t those called traitors?
I could give you the definition copied and pasted straight from a dictionary website but A) you’re a big enough person to look it up on your own, and B) I don’t think it covers all the bases. But what does it mean to you?


  1. Not surprisingly, this has been on my mind lately too. I think the shortest definition, loyalty to country, best describes how I express my own patriotism.

    I firmly believe I'm not being unpatriotic by expressing my opinions about the military, politics, etc. Living in a democracy affords me that luxury. The overriding question for me is, "What am I willing to lose for this country's continued democracy?" Until I've been challenged to face that, I honestly can't say I have an answer.

  2. I think it's someone who wants what's best for their country and is willing to fight through the hard times. I've lived in another country and therefore am better able to see the positives of the US that I couldn't before. That said, we need some work!

  3. JD, a fascinating and heavy discussion. I believe Patriotism is a purely subjective term. Like religion, faith, and politics, it is a topic that is opened to tons of interpretation and most feel their way is the "only" right way. I think every example of patriotism you listed rings true, but what's in the person's heart matters most. As we cannot see into everyone's heart, I choose to believe in what I see, take it for 'face value'. Not everyone is going to don a uniform to protect this nation; those who do are patriots and heros. But flying the American flag, volunteering as a Den or Girl Scout leader, removing your hat during the Star Spangled Banner, slapping an American Flag magnet on your car, wearing a 'patriotic shirt', etc. are all examples of partiotism. I cannot judege other people's ferocity of emotion toward their country. Any effort is worthy in my opinion. And as for Jingoism, I say I'm all for it! If you live in the greatest country in the world like I do(and THAT is an empirical fact) then we have no reason to do anything other than shout it to the world! God Bless America!

  4. At what point is somone a patriot and at what point a traitor? I guess that gets put down by the victors in a history book. For example, if this countries forefathers hadn't emerged from the Revolutionary War as on the winning end they would have been trumpeted as traitors.