Too often these days I see people claiming patriotism in ways that mean very little.
Things That Patriotism Is NOT.
- it is NOT measured in the number of American flags you stick in your yard
- it is NOT a competition of who loves their country more
- it is NOT being blindly loyal to an entity or party
- it is NOT simply saying the pledge of allegiance or standing for the national anthem
- it is NOT ignoring your countries problems because “we’re the best country on Earth”
- it is NOT a Trump hat
Patriotism is much more than that.
I’m not what people typically think of when they hear the word “veteran”, but I served my country very proudly for six years, and from the bottom of my heart, I am thankful for everything the military provided me with. Stability, opportunity, the chance to make a difference, to be a part of a mission and something bigger than myself, education, professionalism, core values, serving side-by-side with people from all over the country, with no care for the differences of religion, sexual orientation, or color of skin — its mission first. I have encouraged others to join because I truly believe in the cause. Now that I am out of the military, I strive for a career in public service so that I can continue to serve my country and its people.
What we’ve learned time and time again through national disasters and even in everyday life is that serving in the military and sticking a flag in your yard are not the only ways to serve your country. Every day people in the community are patriots. The doctors and nurses who work tirelessly on the front lines to protect us from COVID-19, the postal service that continues to deliver mail through pandemics or wildfires, and the grocery store clerks ensuring there is food on the shelves for us to feed our families. Patriotism is about loving your country and the people in it and doing what you need to protect and serve, in whatever way you can.
Unfortunately, right-wing media along with Trump himself have politicized patriotism, making the argument that Black Lives Matter and protests of police brutality are anti-American. If you’re a Democrat, your patriotism is questioned. “We live in the best country in the world, why do you hate it?” they say.
If you love something or someone, you take care of it. And that takes effort. That means acknowledging when things are broken. Our country is rooted in values of “liberty and justice for all”. If you notice that there are instances of people in the country existing under conditions that do not live up to our values, then we should help them and be a voice for change. It’s not a left versus right issue. It’s an American issue and we are all in this together. In the Air Force, we have a saying, “Never leave an Airman behind”. I carry this with me into the civilian world and apply it to the people of this nation. Never leave an American behind, we are only as strong as our weakest links in society so we must work to protect and build up our vulnerable members.
Most people by now have seen the video of George Floyd dying under the knee of a police officer, begging for help. I wish I could say that was the only instance of someone dying laying face down on the ground, crying for help… but there are many. Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her bed when she was killed during a no-knock warrant for something that she had nothing to do with. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while jogging and the police lied to the family about the events that unfolded to protect the murderers. The list goes on. How would you feel if any of these people were your child, mother, brother, friend? Most people can at least acknowledge that these incidents are horrific and that they should not occur but that seems to be where the agreement stops.
If there is any progress to be made, we have to move away from the argument of left versus right and start talking about solutions.
How can we ensure that these incidents do not happen to your child? For starters, we evaluate the policies that are in place that are allowing these things to happen and we fix them. We can ensure that police have the tools to successfully do their job while simultaneously ensuring that the lives of our civilians are protected.
Many police departments have already adapted progressive policing strategies and many more are currently in the process of reviewing. We can learn from the examples and implement the policies that work across the country. There are tangible solutions that can improve the lives of everyone in this country. At the end of the day, its about POLICY not POLITICS. If you can’t move away from identity politics and start thinking about policy, then nothing will get better and you’re not helping the cause. Throwing your opinions around does not lead to productivity. In instances of injustice, start asking yourself:
- Why did this happen?
2. What structures or policies are in place that allowed this to occur?
3. How can we change those structures or policies to ensure that this does not happen again?
4. Are there organizations out there who are doing a good job? If so, what is it that they are doing differently? What can we learn from them?
So I challenge you, how much do you love your country? Are you willing to stare in the face of our country with its ugliest flaws unveiled and say, “I love my country and I will do what it takes to serve and protect ALL of its people”? Or will you bury your head in the sand and pretend we are perfect while your fellow Americans are dying on the homefront?