The terms patriotic and unpatriotic have been tossed around in recent years more than a drunken rookie bull rider, with its most common usage being a repeated assertion by the McCain campaign (on many fronts–by himself, Governor Palin, campaign workers, and unofficial representatives) that certain parts of the country are more patriotic than others. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to look what the word patriotic means.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (and with the word American in it, it ought to know what the word means!), patriotic means feeling, expressing, or inspired by love of one’s country. That sounds clear enough, but do we ever stop to think about what a statement like that might really mean?
It’s easy enough to see that swelling with pride when hearing the national anthem or saying the Pledge of Allegiance would fall into that category, as would feeling pride that we have enacted policies that assist our older Americans (such as Social Security, Medicare) or that we have a right to express our opinions as freely as we would like. We love our country at these times, and we are patriotic.
Americans can very well be patriotic (feeling, expressing, or inspired by love of one’s country) while disagreeing with invasions conducted by the country or yelling from the rooftops about perceived injustices in the tax code, health care, or a lack of government regulation. If the act of disagreement is done out of love of the country, then it’s patriotic–and, in many instances, the love requires those acts. What would our country be like if we just blindly accepted everything that is done in the name of patriotism?
Feeling pride at nationalistic displays can be true patriotism or it can be a mindless act that is done with no emotion and, therefore, no patriotism. Those acts, in and of themselves, do not make someone patriotic. Similarly, acts of defiance and protest can be acts of hatred or they can be acts of the truest patriotism, those that require action instead of mere acceptance.
Either the McCain campaign doesn’t understand the definition of patriotism or he is using patriotism as a way to further divide us in at attempt to be elected at all costs.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever