Who Are The Patriots?

“Patriotism,” Samuel Johnson said famously on April 7,1775, “is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

The 18th century British critic was talking about hypocritical leaders who hide behind the flag for their own selfish goals, claiming that anyone with differing opinions is no patriot.

It is not patriotism when Donald Trump divides the country and sows hatred for political gains and then wraps himself around the flag. Patriotism is not following a president in the belief that he has been ordained by god.

Patriotism is not my country right or wrong; it is my country where wrongs are ended and rights protected. Patriots are not uncritical lovers.

Patriotism is not blind love and respect for the country or its leaders. Having a different point of view from the president is not disloyal or Anti-American. Quite the opposite, allowing for varying viewpoints is at the core of the republic.

Norman Rockwell painted a nation of patriots that included a young African-American girl courageously enduring a hate-filled crowd on her walk to school, a Boy Scout rescuing a young child from floodwaters, a mother bringing her baby daughter to their country doctor.

Today’s America too often feels like it was created not by Norman Rockwell by American Nazi Party founder, George Lincoln Rockwell.

Unarmed young African Americans are shot for no reason other than being black. The Boy Scouts of America have been sued for years of covering up sexual abuse of young Scouts by their leaders. And many can’t afford medical care because they have no health insurance. White supremacists act with the tacit approval of the president.

That is not the stuff of patriotism.

A man feels his rights are infringed because he must wear a protective mask in public places to avoid spreading COVID 19. The same man assaults a woman who is wearing a mask in a supermarket. That is not patriotism.

Chinese Americans are accosted and accused of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands from COVID 19. That is not patriotism.

The echo chambers of social media are filled with lies, innuendo, partial truths and slander. The same silos support violence against anyone with different opinions. That is not patriotism.

Armed protesters crowd state houses to demand the right to have unlimited firepower as they gain the strong backing of politicians. That is not patriotism.

Politicians and special interest groups craft policies to make it nearly impossible for young women to make their own decisions about abortions. That is not patriotism.

Religious leaders use pulpits for political ends preaching for an end to social distancing and thereby putting their own congregants at grave risk of COVID 29. That is not patriotism.

Patriotism is not holding rallies, with small children waving tiny American flags and school bands playing patriotic tunes while speakers crow about the beauty of the United States, with the message to support their points of view to the exclusion of all others.

Patriotism is not barreling down the road in a truck with a large American flag waving next to a Trump 2020 flag, while bellowing out that the enemy is anyone who has a different point of view. Not my America.

The true patriots act out the lofty ideals of the country in their everyday lives.

Patriotism is helping an elderly neighbor who lives alone and has been quarantined because of COVID 19.

Patriotism is standing up for the rights of young children whose only crime is having undocumented parents.

Patriotism is standing strong behind the transgender woman or man who has endured years of ridicule for not fitting in under their gender at birth.

Patriotism is taking time out to sort food at a local pantry.

Patriotism is not blindly following leaders, but instead trying to understand complex issues by looking at competing views. Patriots treasure different perspectives; they don’t brand them as the enemy.

Patriotism is understanding that many people are poor, hungry and lack good education. They see why Woody Guthrie penned “This Land is My Land” in critical response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Guthrie sang that America is for everyone, and that America is not just defined by the God-fearing.

Patriotism is understanding that the United States is not the center of the universe and that all citizens in all countries should work toward the overall benefit of the entire world. Anything less is bound to fail.

As Henry David Thoreau said a century ago, “I am a citizen of the world first, and of this country at a later and more convenient hour.”

President Franklin Roosevelt was a true patriot when he promoted an Economic Bill of Rights. Roosevelt said that every American should have “the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation…the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; the right to a good education.”

Amen.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer