Thursday, April 17, 2008

Does Wearing A Flag Pin Make You Patriotic?

In last night's debate between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, Senator Obama was again asked about why he doesn't wear a flag pin. The implication being that if you don't wear the pin, you must hate America and not have a patriotic bone in your body.

That got me to thinking, what makes someone patriotic? Is it a flag pin or is it something else?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as "love for or devotion to one's country." But that doesn't quite cut it for me. Love and devotion are good things, but are they enough?

That made me think about my beliefs on religion. In my life, I have known many people who believe that if your butt isn't on a church pew every Sunday morning at 9:00am SHARP, then you are not a "good Christian." BUT I have known too many people who have their asses firmly planted on the pew week in and week out and take that as a license to go screw people over all week long. I don't think those people are good Christians at all. Being a good Christian to me, is about doing as Christ did - helping those less fortunate, living by the Golden Rule, being non-judgemental, being humble, being a good steward of our planet. I've always felt more connected to my religion (I'm Presbyterian) when I'm out volunteering and just living my life as an example to others, but not needing to proselytize and convert others to my way of thinking. It's about having my actions speak so loudly that words are unnecessary.

Being patriotic is a similar thing for me. Anyone with apposable thumbs can stick a flag pin through his/her shirt. But that doesn't mean that they are patriotic, any more than sitting on a church pew makes one a good Christian.

To me, being patriotic is about doing, just as being a good Christian is about doing.

Here's some of what I think makes someone patriotic (in no particular order):

  1. Becoming educated on the real issues facing our country and world
  2. Taking action on those issues - writing letters to the editor and to elected officials, petitioning government, attending public meetings, etc.
  3. Volunteering for committees related to those issues
  4. Protesting (yep, I said protesting)
  5. Running for public office - dog catcher, school board, library board, sanitation district, state senator or president - every office is valuable and needed
  6. Working to improve to collective good - setting up a food pantry, delivering Meals on Wheels, etc.
  7. Registering to vote and voting in every election. How many of us can honestly say we've never missed an election - not just the big ones, but the little ones too? In my opinion, if you don't vote, sit down and shut up. You've lost your voice and your right to it.
  8. Questioning authority and those running for office, rather than blindly sitting by and always believing everything we're told just because the words come out of an elected official's mouth.
  9. Being a public servant - either through military service, volunteerism, or being an elected official.
  10. Respecting human rights both in the United States and all around the world.
Being patriotic isn't about being a Republican or Democrat. For me, being patriotic is about how I live my life. What do you think makes someone patriotic?

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