Just before the Fourth of July this year, I ran a column on patriotism. I had so hoped that perhaps we might have improved at least a little bit since then, but alas, no. My Facebook feed and comment boards elsewhere are still filled with people questioning the patriotism of those who don't hold their political beliefs and deciding that since those people don't share their beliefs, they obviously hate our country and should leave.
Really? You're going to make me pull out the patriotism bit again?
OK, you asked for it.
Patriotism does not mean you stand behind a leader or a political party. It means loving your country, and sometimes that means calling out its bad behavior, just as a parent would that of a rebellious child. A parent wants the best for a child, and sometimes the best thing is discipline and acknowledgment of faults; without it, how can the child grow?
Teddy Roosevelt, one of my favorite presidents (despite his faults, which like others shouldn't be judged according to today's standards), wrote in a May 1918 essay, "Lincoln and Free Speech," in Metropolitan Magazine:
"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth--whether about the president or about anyone else--save in the rare cases where this would make known to the enemy information of military value which would otherwise be unknown to him."
If any leader casts him- or herself as the only person who can say who loves their country (or for that matter, that only they can fix what's wrong), you probably shouldn't be listening to that leader. America is made up of many different people with diverging opinions and beliefs, and Americans who love their country aren't instantly unpatriotic because they question the current leadership, whether that's Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump or Sparky the Wonder Turtle (though to be fair, Sparky knows patriotism).
So to be clear, here are a few things that don't mean someone is unpatriotic and hates America: Protesting against the president, racial or gender equality, or just about anything that isn't the actual United States of America. Kneeling instead of standing for the national anthem; turning your back on the flag or mocking it or the anthem is far more disrespectful than kneeling, which is a sign of reverence. Campaigning for the opposition or listening to what it has to say so that you can make an informed choice. Allowing other people to voice their own opinions without shutting them down and insisting that only your side is right (I think stealing campaign yard signs would qualify here ... plus it's just petty).
We see a lot of situational patriotism nowadays, where it's patriotic if one party does it (Tea Party protests) but not if another does it (Women's March, BLM, etc.). You know in your heart that that's not right, and remember that even Lincoln questioned the actions of the country in his second inaugural speech, affirming that the nation should live up to and be judged by its highest principles.
I'm fairly sure that those highest principles don't include declaring that if you don't like who's in charge you should just leave.
Americans by birth and by naturalization love this country and are just as entitled to it as anyone else. They've made friends, careers, a whole life here. Just like you, they have favorite spots, like Petit Jean or Pinnacle Mountain, or way out in rural Dayton, Ark. Disagreeing with someone over politics is no reason to leave the country or to tell someone else to leave. Leave the dinner table at Thanksgiving, maybe, but not the country.
Besides, who knows what the country will get up to if the parents go away for the weekend? Will they come back to police lights and a trashed house?
I didn't vote in 2016. I hadn't actually registered until a couple of years ago, not because I don't love my country, but because I didn't want people to make assumptions about me because of my profession.
Silly me. That's all they do with me and my colleagues, and very few get it anywhere close to right.
The election of 2016 convinced me I needed to get off my ample derriere and do the right thing, and I voted in 2018. This Saturday I plan to drop off my absentee ballot at the courthouse drive-through line. By the time I start on next week's column, I'll have done my patriotic duty and voted for what I think is best, which may not be what others, even in my own family, believe is right for this country.
And if things don't go the way I hope, I'll still fight for this country, because I love it, and I have no intention of leaving anytime soon.
All my stuff's here.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at email@example.com.