The subject of patriotism, who is a real American or what makes someone a real American, has been much more topical since 911 and the two wars that followed. For some this is a push button issue that can get one’s back up in a New York minute, which is very fast. There have been times in our country’s history when people have been more divided than currently, but that’s not to say that we aren’t divided right now. With unemployment high, the GDP down, the middle class shrinking, tax inequity becoming more manifest, and a nasty presidential election coming up, people have very different ideas about who we are as Americans and where they would like to see the next president take our country.
My own ideas about patriotism start with the notion that displaying the American flag and sporting a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker, and proclamations of love of country, by themselves, mean very little. All that does is remind me of the passage in the Book of James which says that faith without works is dead. I think just about all Americans can agree on what we want for our country, things like a strong defense, full employment with good jobs that have upward mobility, a growing economy, excellent schools, safe streets and neighborhoods, low crime, good highways, a fair tax system, available and quality healthcare, and more. The differences that Americans have is how to get to the end zone where these things are accomplished. It wasn’t until the war in Iraq that I cared about my generation’s participation in the military during Vietnam. When I saw all the politicians that supported that war, politicians that were gung ho about our participation in Vietnam but never suited up, I changed my whole viewpoint on the topic. Romney is only one example among many who took advantage of several deferments to avoid service while at the same time he marched in favor of the war. When asked during the 2008 campaign about whether his sons have served in the military, Romney responded that one of the ways they were serving their country was by supporting his presidential campaign.
I have come around to the belief that there are different ways to demonstrate patriotism. Serving in the military is one of them. Some kind of civilian service to our nation for a couple of years as an alternative to the military, would be another. There are a lot of very worthwhile projects and needs that could use the talents of our young men and women, and not only would our country benefit, they too would benefit from the experience. I also believe that patriotism includes the unbridled willingness to pay for the costs of war to ensure that our fighters have the very best equipment that money can buy. I believe that patriotism demands that we willingly pay whatever tax hikes it would take to care for the lifetime care of our wounded veterans so that they receive the best medical treatment for the rest of their lives. It is unconscionable that many organizations that treat severely injured veterans have to raise the money through private sources. All Americans that call themselves patriots should be willing to pony up and not rely on charity. It is a disingenuous argument to suggest that we should not have a tax hike to pay for our wars and our wounded until we cut other spending. Our elected officials can cut spending if they decided (I’m not getting into who’s at fault here), but in the meanwhile they can show real patriotism and do the right thing.