Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What is a patriot?

This issue was brought up a few times on another person's blog, but I feel compelled to address it in my own words, even at the risk of potentially being ridiculed, misunderstood, and maybe even attacked, the same way she was. (But she handled it with TREMENDOUS poise, maturity, and grace!)

**To reiterate my "disclaimer" yet one more time, you are welcome to agree to disagree with me. These are MY opinions, MY interpretations, and MY thoughts. If you don't agree or don't like them, that is YOUR choice and YOUR right. However, you MUST respect that I, and anyone else who may respond, am still a REAL PERSON with REAL FEELINGS, and therefore deserve to be treated with RESPECT and debated with in a MATURE and RESPECTFUL manner. If you cannot do that, and you make things about me and my character (or anyone else's who may respond), instead of about the issues at hand, your comments WILL be deleted and I will not engage in juvenile name calling with you! If attacking a person's character is all you've got, then you've got nothing.**

That said, I want to address the question, "What/Who is a patriot?" What qualities does a patriot possess? What does it mean to be "patriotic?" And on the flip-side, what is NOT patriotic?

Let's start with dictionary definitions. I tried to find some factually-based, well-written blogs/commentaries that delve into this topic, but came up mostly dry (Wiki Answers looked promising, but ended up a total joke, among others...), so I am going to have to define and interpret for myself.

patriot: –noun 1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
<< I omitted the 3rd definition because its completely irrelevant.>>
From dictionary.com

patriot: a person who loves their country and, if necessary, will fight for it
From Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

So, to put these in my own words/summary, a patriot is someone who loves, supports, and defends individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal governmet, with devotion, and will fight for it IF NECESSARY. That is what I take away from the definitions above.

In today's context, too often I think that people think being a patriot is limited to those who serve our country by being enlisted in the military, or those who are in full support of our government's military actions. We are living in a day and age where, yes, we are confronted daily with the raw facts that we are involved in multiple wars around the world. Certainly, defending your country, and supporting those who defend our country fall under patriotism. However, being in support of our government's every single military action is NOT necessarily patriotism.

The way I read, interpret, and understand the raw definitions of the word "patriot," is that we defend only IF necessary, and that we are defending individual rights, even against presumed interference by our federal government. My opinion is that war is rarely, if ever, necessary. I am not trying to trivialize the wars we are fighting, and the current state of our world, or minimalize the wonderful service and sacrifices of our troops, but as a child, I was taught to "work it out with words," and my parents were never in support of me settling my problems/disagreements with other people by physical, bodily harm. In my experience, that only complicates and escalates matters. Generally speaking, in most cases, mutual understandings can be reached and peace can be made without forceful tactics. So, a patriot is willing to fight IF NECESSARY.

I'd like to focus in on the "defends its interests with devotions," and "a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government" for a moment. As a Libertarian, this is the core of what we stand for. We believe that there is no higher duty as an American, than to fight to uphold individual rights, EVEN if it is "against presumed interference by the federal government!" Libertarians oppose being involved in wars we don't belong in, because we believe our money and our focus should be spent within our own borders, and other countries need to sort out their own business with their own money within their own borders. We oppose the war because we support human life, and protection of life (certainly!), liberty (our freedoms), and the pursuit of happiness (the ability to be prosperous). These, I believe, apply to matters of war, and spending AMERICAN money on other countries' affairs. War ends lives. How does that support life? War causes global unrest and further threatens our country and its prosperity, and causes money to be funnelled into causes that essentially "rob from the rich" (America) and "give to the poor" (countries that are so impoverished or so ravaged they can and will NEVER repay us). Ultimately, do I want MY personal, hard-earned money being spent, in the form of taxes, to support the efforts of rebuilding other countries' infrastructures (war), with the *slim* hope of ever seeing MY money ever again, even at the possibility that MY money will be spent by another country to further attacks against me (in the form of nuclear weapons that OUR American money is paying for)?! Heck to the no!!

Being a patriot is NOT about simply flying a flag, or supporting our troops. I do all that. But that is shallow. Its like ritualistic religion as opposed to having a REAL relationship with the Lord. Patriotism is putting the actions into practice, not about going through the motions so that you have the "appearance" of being patriotic. Being a patriot is about standing up and fighting for the INDIVIDUAL rights and freedoms of the citizens of your country, EVEN at the risk of being "against presumed interference by the federal government." Being a patriot is about having the guts to stand up for what is right for America, and let's face it, every American has different beliefs for what that looks like. (And therein lies the difficulty!) Being a patriot is about upholding what our Constitution is all about - "...to secure these rights..." (taken straight, word-for-word, from our Declaration of Independence!).

Let's face it, BOTH party lines are trying to run their own agendas and tweak our Constitution (or being in DIRECT violation of it!) to suit their own needs. I don't think that is any secret. (Read my earlier blogs here and here.) So to stand up and oppose government's decisions, IF they are in opposition to our Constitution, is our American duty! THAT is what a patriot is! To go blindly along with whatever decisions our government makes and never speak up, even (especially!) in matters of war, I dare say is a step too far - that is not patriotism, it is nationalism! Nationalism is defined as:

–noun 1. national spirit or aspirations.
2. devotion and loyalty to one's own nation; patriotism.
3. excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
4. the desire for national advancement or independence.
5. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one's own nation, viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.
6. an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation.
7. a movement, as in the arts, based upon the folk idioms, history, aspirations, etc., of a nation.

Taken from dictionary.com

• a great or too great love of your own country
The book documents the rise of the political right with its accompanying strands of nationalism and racism.
Taken from Cambridge Dictionary

Truthfully, I think those definitions speak for themselves! Nationalism is to chauvenistically assume that we, America, are greater than any other country, that we are the supreme model of politics that work (yeah right...back in 1776, but not much since then!), that we know best not only what is best for our own country, but every other country around the word (therefore saying its okay to invade them and tell them how to run their own affairs). That isn't patriotism, it is, dare I say, lemming-ism and chauvenism of probably the most epic proportions ever!

Anyway, I am going to quit while I'm ahead and tend to the needs of my increasingly-as-I sit-here messy home. You (hopefully) get my point.

**And again, if you disagree, that's fine. Just be thoughtful, mature, and respectful with any comments you may have.**

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