The recent row in professional football about saluting during the national anthem or kneeling in protest has sparked a national debate about what it means to be patriotic. What does it mean to be a patriotic, loyal, freedom-loving American?
I submit that we are talking about the wrong things. Our national debate is focused on a symbol. We are ignoring substance. The slogans and memes abound, and for the most part they are meaningless.
|Except for this meme, which is meaningful.|
When we say "Blue Lives Matter" and "We support our law enforcement officers" is that really true? Does saying those words constitute support, or is it just an effortless way to signal our empty patriotism to everyone around?
If you want to support police officers, how about buying a life-saving first aid kit for each officer? Nothing says "thank you for your service" like doing something to save that officer's life. When an officer is bleeding from a beating, stab, or bullet wound, ten thousand "likes" on facebook will not stop the flow of blood.
|Thanks for the thousands of likes, |
that made it all better.
If you want to support homeless veterans, how about picking up a hammer and building a home for a needy veteran? Nothing says "thank you for your service" like doing something to give that veteran a home. When that paralyzed veteran can't run his wheelchair down the stairs, ten thousand "likes" on facebook will not get him to the bathroom.
On a national level, "supporting the troops" should mean a lot of things that we often ignore. It should mean funding the VA well enough that they can all access the health care and benefits they are due. That means we agree to pay more taxes for that, and vote for people who will fund the VA. It should mean decent pay for our troops. That means we agree to pay more taxes for that, and vote for people who will give the raises. It should mean being extremely reluctant to send our troops on missions where they will be wounded and killed. That means we agree to pay less taxes for wars, and vote for people who will make fewer wars.
|What could explain the recent upsurge in concern|
for the plight of homeless veterans?
On a national level, "supporting our law enforcement" should mean a lot of things that we often ignore. It should mean decent pay for our officers. That means we agree to pay more taxes for that, and vote for people who will give the raises. It should mean funding academy training to provide more than a meager 8 hours of conflict resolution training, compared to the more than 100 hours of combat training. It should mean body cams for all officers, because in most cases body cams provide evidence that protects officers from wrongful accusation. It means we agree to pay more taxes for those ideas, and to vote for people who will enact them.
When people wave the flag, don't assume they are patriotic. They might just be attention-starved. When people salute for the anthem, don't assume they are patriotic. They might just be jingoistic. When people recite the pledge, don't assume they are patriotic. They might just be conformists.
|Which of these men is a patriot?|
Hint: Not the one with the flag.
People are patriots when they are doing something to make the United States of America a better place for all Americans. They are patriots when they serve, work, and sacrifice for their fellow countrymen. They are patriots when they show the best of America to the world, both in affirmation and constructive protest.