Patriotism is and always has been a tricky subject to broach. Love of country has been used throughout history to achieve great things and to justify the most horrific of atrocities. Patriotism is still a potent force, especially in the role that it plays in the United States and in American politics.
Far too often politicians criticize their opponents as not being patriotic enough. It has been cheaply used as a weapon by people of differing ideologies to attack those who think differently. These same people call those who agree with them “real Americans” for the very patriotic reason of thinking like them. The time has come for Americans to quit using patriotism as a political tool and as a way to justify one’s agenda.
Let’s clear up a very common misconception: the vast majority of Americans dearly love this great country and the ideals upon which it was founded. Yet if one listens to comments about “real America” and “real Americans” from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin one would think that only certain Americans, who funnily enough happen to agree with Gingrich and Palin, are patriotic and love their country.
To be frank, I view a “real American” as someone who is a citizen of the United States whether it is through birth or naturalization, not someone who holds a particular political view. One really does not need a particular ideology or world view to love this nation and its founding principles and values. Yet for far too long patriotism has been used as a cheap political tool to further a personal or partisan agenda or to justify a course of action or ideology.
The only ideology one needs to subscribe to in order to be a patriotic American is that of the Constitution and the principles it espouses: freedom, equality and tolerance of those that are different. One needs not vote Republican or Democratic in order to be patriotic or a “real American.”
Patriotism is not found in wearing flag pins or God Bless America T-shirts. Nor is it found in waving the flag incessantly. Yes, these activities are physical manifestations of one’s love of country but if that person does not practice and believe in the founding principles on a day to day basis than these activities are merely empty symbolism.
Objects such as flags are a wonderful way to express a love of country yet it should not matter what objects one owns or what one’s ideology is to determine patriotism. Rather patriotism should be determined through cherishing and applying the principles on which this nation was founded.
Jordan Rubio is a freshman broadcast journalism major from San Antonio.