Modern Patriotism in the U.S.A.

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and picture someone who is patriotic, what would you envision? For me, I picture a middle aged man with a beer belly, sitting in a folding chair on his front lawn, a plastic U.S. flag clutched in one hand and a rifle in the other. I’m not entirely sure why this specific image comes to my mind, but I do know that part of the reason is because the face of modern patriotism is crafted and reinforced to look a certain way. It is my belief, however, that patriotism comes in many forms and should be recognized as such.

What is Patriotism?

According to the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from 1941, the definition of Patriotism is the following: “Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one’s country.” And, according to the 2008 edition, the definition was reduced to: “Love for or devotion to one’s country.” I think it’s interesting that they removed the part about the welfare to one’s country. Apparently you don’t have to care if it’s doing well, you just have to love it. But I find this definition lacking the full scope of modern patriotism. In my mind there are two kinds of patriots today; the blind follower and the silent observer. The blind follower is someone who loves America because it’s America; everything about it is the greatest in the world. These ‘patriots’ get the most face time in the news because they tend to yell the loudest. But I have a news flash for them; America isn’t perfect. It has a shady past and corporate hang-ups in the present. I always laugh when a politician goes out of their way to say how great America is; their job is to fix the country, not tell us everything is fine. But the blind follower needs this reassurance that their country is flawless and is most often seen waving/wearing ‘American’ flags.

The silent observer is the kind of person who watches the evolution of their country, and has moments of pride when the government, or its people, does something right, and moments of shame when they do something wrong. Rarely, however, do they wear their patriotism on their sleeves.  Now one might make the argument: I love my country, but not my government, thus separating the two. I can understand this viewpoint because you could look at your fellow citizens and see them helping the homeless while your representatives in the government sit on their butts. It’s hard to differentiate, however, because the government has played such a large role in this country’s existence. Whether you like it or not, our government represents a very large part of our country because it’s what allows the things we love to be possible. But this article is about patriotism; let’s take a look at some of the different aspects that have been assigned to this term.

"Just because you wear something traditionally associated with patriotism, doesnt make you patriotic."
"Just because you wear something traditionally associated with patriotism, doesn't make you patriotic."

Men and Women in Uniform

One of the most common images of patriotism is a man or a woman in uniform. Military garb is at the top, but police, firefighters and medical workers are all regarded as patriotic, at least in image. There is nothing wrong with this image, considering these people are all serving their country in one form or another. But let’s stop and think about this; while the uniform may represent service to our country, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person wearing that uniform is patriotic. In fact, that person could hate our government and other aspects of our society, but they’re working the job because it pays well, or because it helps people. Similarly, someone who works for a private company and has no uniform can be very patriotic.

This is similar to the idea of wearing the U.S. flag on your shirts, hats, pants, contacts, finger nails… etc. Just because you wear something traditionally associated with patriotism, doesn’t make you patriotic, it means you want people to think you are patriotic. You might then need to ask yourself what is more important; loving your country, or making sure other people know you love your country?

America is not just the United States

Many things are described as ‘American’, like, for example, apple pie, baseball or gun ownership. While these are all images commonly associated with our past, I don’t feel like ‘American’ is the best word to describe them and the reason is because the United States is part of North America. North America also has Mexico and Canada among other countries and territories. So by our logic, Mexican food and Canadian hockey are also American. Just because we are a super power doesn’t mean we ‘own’ this continent. We are called the United States of America; we are the U.S. that just happens to be on an American continent. So it seems presumptuous to call things American when we are not the only ones living on an America (not to mention the entire South American continent below us!)

"Who is at fault; the immigrant who gets the job or the business man who decides that hiring an illegal alien is a better idea than paying a U.S. citizen their fair share?"
"Who is at fault; the immigrant who gets the job or the business man who decides that hiring an illegal alien is a better idea than paying a U.S. citizen their fair share?"

Immigrants

Unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant, or the descendant of an immigrant. Too often do U.S. residents think themselves to be pure ‘Americans’ while those crossing the border are invading their territory. What ever happened to the U.S. being a melting pot? What happened to that dream of immigrants entering New York Harbor with the promise of a better life? Have we really become a country that says “go away, we’re all full up”? I understand the worry that immigrants are taking jobs over unemployed U.S. citizens but there are two things to consider with this argument. The first is that more often than not they are getting jobs we don’t want. Many modern day U.S. citzens feel entitled to a certain wage and benefits when they get a job. And they should have the rights to a good job, however immigrants aren’t taking away high paying jobs with benefits, they’re taking the lower level grunt work that no one else will do. Now you might then ask, why don’t the people hiring them increase the job’s benefits and then give it to an U.S. citizen? The answer is because it’s cheaper to hire an illegal immigrant than it is to hire a legal citizen. So from a business point of view, the immigrants are a great investment. If this is the case, then who is at fault here? The immigrant who gets the job or the business man who decides that hiring an illegal alien is a better idea than paying a U.S. citizen their fair share? This then leads me to the second thing to consider about loss of jobs to immigrants; we’re in greater danger of losing our jobs to oversea people, than we are immigrants in our own country. At least the illegal aliens are in the United States, but with the way companies ship jobs overseas, we’re losing it to people we will never see or interact with at a much faster rate. In my mind, that is a far greater offense, and once again it boils down to the greed of Corporate America.

The English Language

There is frequently an argument that foreigners who visit and live in the United States should be forced to learn the English language. It is our primary language and I can understand why people should learn it in the interest of communication. However, I don’t think that letting other languages take hold in our country is a bad thing. In fact, it encourages new cultures and broadens the knowledge of our children who are exposed to it. If there is a Spanish translation on a sign, don’t freak out and here is why; English is the biggest mutt of the language world. You may believe that speaking English is ‘American’ but in reality, we’ve contributed very little to it. The word Patriot alone has origins in French, Latin and Greek (source: Dictionary.com). I read in a book once that the English language is like a thug that takes other languages into the back alley, beats them up and then steals vocabulary out of their pockets. And it’s true. Did you ever stop to think why it’s proper English to say ‘went’ as the past tense of ‘go’, instead of ‘goed’? The proper past tense of most words is to add an ‘ed’ at the end, yet our language is filled with irregular words like that. Now, it is true that all languages are bound to have irregular words (I struggled with the Spanish ones) but when you add those on top of all the words English has stolen from other languages, you’ve got something that is extremely difficult to learn and impossible to assign to a specific culture or country. So calling it ‘American’ to speak the English language is false, not just because Native American language was here first but because so much of our language comes from other sources that we have no right to claim ownership of it. Anyone who studies linguistics knows how screwy English is, and anyone who studies a second language, is thankful they learned English first.

Who really is a patriot?

You might be wondering where I’m going with all of this; what’s the point of trying to tear down traditional patriotic concepts? I’m not trying to tear down anything; I’m trying to put it in perspective. I think part of the reason I’ve been frustrated in the past with the idea of patriotism is because I was frustrated with the image that had been forced upon it. My point in all this is that you can still be patriotic even if you don’t fall into the molds of what has traditionally been viewed as patriotic. You don’t need to brandish the U. S. flag, or speak English or believe in god to be proud of your country, and you can be proud of your country for entirely different reasons than your neighbor. Your neighbor might feel a sense of patriotism when the U.S. goes to war, while you might feel it when U.S. citizens protest that same war. Patriotism can’t be owned any more than North America or the English language can. So, if you’re like me, don’t feel un-patriotic when you think that ‘under god’ should be removed from the pledge of allegiance. Don’t feel unpatriotic when you disagree with your government, and don’t feel unpatriotic when you say the U.S. isn’t perfect. It’s not perfect, and those who think it is are doing a disservice to our country. We can always improve, and improving our lives, and the lives of everyone around us, is probably the most patriotic thing you can do.

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Comments 21 comments

Rusty C. Adore profile image

Rusty C. Adore 5 years ago from Michigan

Fantastic hub! Bravo! You are spot on, my friend. There are so many people out there to say such terrible things about their fellow man in the name of "patriotism" and it just turns my stomach. It's about time someone pointed out that you don't have to be a flag waving, anti-immigrant, war supporter to be patriotic. Thank you for this. Voted up!


HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Awesome Hub. I totally agree with you. I believe patriotism is when you dissent at something you feel your government is doing wrong even if it is going against the grain of what your community is feeling. Simple flag waving is not patriotism at all. It's feel good nonsense. A patriot is a person who strives to find out what is going on in his country and speaks out about what they truly know is wrong and right. There is more ignorance in this country than I have seen in my whole life.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

"Unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant, or the descendant of an immigrant."

Very true! I think people don't realize this very important fact. Good read and interesting hub!


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Rusty - Thank you for the kind comment. There is definitely a lot of conflict among U.S. citizens, but all of us need to realize that we're on the same side. We all want what's best for our country.

HSchneider - That's a very good point. Taking the time to learn about what is happening in our country, whether it's political or otherwise, is crucial for patriotism. How can one support or denounce something if they don't know anything about it? Knowledge isn't just power, it's enlightenment and the more U.S. Citizens learn about their country, the better off we'll be. Thank you so much for the comment!

Genna East - Native Americans don't get nearly enough credit when discussing U.S. culture. It's true that history is written by the winners of any given war/battle, but if we don't learn from the past, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Thank you for the comment!


wolfboy profile image

wolfboy 5 years ago from lumsden,canada,sk

i live in canada but tha say that canada is friends with the U.S.A.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

wolfboy - I certainly enjoy having Canada as our neighbors. :D


Pandoras Box profile image

Pandoras Box 5 years ago from A Seemingly Chaotic World

Excellent points! If we can't be honest about ourselves, and look at ourselves with an eye for improvement, if we cannot find humility within ourselves, we're doomed. No, falling education, health, and social standards do not mean "we're #1!"

Yes! Believe it or not, we can learn a thing or two from others.

I love america. That means I love it for what it is. I don't have to lie about it, because I don't care if you love it or not and my opinion of her is not affected by anyone else's.

It also means that I do want what's best for her, even if that means importing solutions and ideas from other countries, and even -gasp!- giving them the credit for it. Even if we have to let go of some outdated american notions.

Loyal to it? Yes, to her people, which is what america is in the end. No need to sit down shut up wave my flag and smile when inside we're crumbling.

Love, loyalty, devotion, all require speaking out and looking for real viable solutions when something is wrong. Demonizing each other gets us nowhere.

Good hub!


edmob1 profile image

edmob1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I found this article both interesting and thoughtful. As a UK citizen who considers himself a European and world citzen.I probably fall into your second category as a UK citzen,though I have the capacity to stradle both when it suits me.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Pandoras Box - Very well said. Our loyalty to our country should result in solutions and a real effort to work together, not pouring sugar on everything that tastes bad. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

edmob1 - Loving ones country is a lot like loving your family. Often times they make you angry and do things you don't agree with, but if anyone other than you points it out, you go on the defensive. How dare they bad mouth my family? Unlike our families, however, our countries CAN change, and we're the ones who can change them. So we should be proud of what works, but we should also take the time to learn what is wrong and correct it. Thanks for the comment!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Very good hub, thoughtful. Our country has no use for 'knee-jerk" patriotism, especially now.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Danette Watt - You're right, now of all times we need to work together towards a common goal. Thanks for the comment!


TeaPartyCrasher profile image

TeaPartyCrasher 5 years ago from Camp Hill, PA

To many a 'Patriot' must be blindly loyal to their country, no criticism is allowed.

You and I seem to NOT share that idea.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

TeaPartyCrasher - It is true, we do not share the idea of blind praise for our country. Being patriotic means wanting what's best for one's country. Pretending its perfect isn't what's best. Thanks for the comment!


DanielBing1 profile image

DanielBing1 5 years ago from New Hampshire

I'm loyal to my country to the extent that all I have to do is say that I'm loyal to my country. Beyond that I could really give a crap. Why should I be proud to have been born in a specific piece of land that the government has designated as a specific country? I'm proud of actual accomplishments and things I've worked for, not the random occurrence of the location of my birth.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

DanielBing1 - A very good point. Being born on a specific patch of soil doesn't mean you are required to be faithful to that soil. Imagine being born in a war-torn country with a dictator; you don't have to be faithful to that if you disagree with it. But if you do agree with your country, or you want better things for your country, then that (I believe) is patriotism. Thanks for the comment!


Jessicapotter24 profile image

Jessicapotter24 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

Wow!! Brilliant hub!! I just loved this phrase 'you don’t have to care if it’s doing well, you just have to love it'. Love your country unconditionally as a mother loves her child unmindful of whatever he/she is. This is what many fail to understand.Wearing flags and raising slogans do not demonstrate a person's patriotism. There are so many behind the screens who are silently professing their patriotism. People should feel it and spread the feelinf in such a way that others around them will also feel it and develop true patriotism.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States Author

Jessicapotter24 - You're right that many people don't wear their patriotism on their sleeves. Some people are very patriotic for reasons other than the traditional 'America is great' tagline. We just need to recognize those other forms of patriotism. Thanks for the comment!


Sooner28 4 years ago

Great hub. I think Patriotism is a way to control people. Why must human beings construct these artificial borders known as countries? We are all part of the human race, and we should all live together in harmony. The U.N. needs teeth.

The ruling elite have done an amazing job at indoctrinating people into believing that, when the U.S. goes to war, we must all support it. They have marginalized pacifists. They push the idea that any economic system that isn't laissez-faire Capitalism is "unamerican," whatever that means.

Everyone should take a long, hard look at what patriotism is, and what uses the power elite have for it.

Pledging allegiance to a flag? No. I pledge my allegiance to truth, justice, honor, and courage.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

Sooner28 - I definitely dislike the use of patriotism as a weapon. The idea that, if you don't wear the flag on your sleeve and agree with everything our forefather's said, you're un-patriotic. In my mind, patriots are citizens who are trying to make our country better, where as right now it's associated with people who want the least amount of change. It can be incredibly frustrating. Thanks for the comment!


Gamerelated profile image

Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

This is a great article. I encountered this a lot in my debates in my college classes. People implying that I wasn't patriotic because I openly criticized our government and some of its decisions. They would try to label me as unpatriotic because it was easier for them to criticize me as person than it was to debate against my ideas.

What made some of these debates funny and ironic sometimes is they would debate against me not knowing that I served in the Marine Corps for 5 years. I usually didn't bring up my service as I thought my ideas alone could stand on their own without them being endorsed by my veteran status.

However, there were times when people were being disrespectful and at these times I made it be known that if they have a problem with what I have to say then they could pick up a rifle and go stand a post. All of the fake patriots shut their mouths after that. Good work on this Hub.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States Author

Gamerelated - Now, more than ever, it's extremely difficult to have a civil debate about politics. What's frustrating is that I believe most Americans want the same things, but there is this mentality, built by politicians and reinforced by the media, that working with the other side is akin to treason. Because of this, a lot of people ignore the issues entirely and instead look for personal attacks to tear down their opposition. And, with so many negative ads cluttering television and radio, can we really blame people for thinking this is how it works? If we could stop demonizing the people and just accept that we're all trying to make this work together, maybe we could actually focus on issues rather than realty-show-bickering. Thanks for the comment!

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