Local View: For best US, we all can be more patriot-like
A pickup truck flying dual American flags crossed in front of me at an intersection in Duluth the other day. The Stars and Stripes flowing in the wake of the truck caused me to pause for a moment. I will never know the driver's intent for display...
A pickup truck flying dual American flags crossed in front of me at an intersection in Duluth the other day. The Stars and Stripes flowing in the wake of the truck caused me to pause for a moment. I will never know the driver's intent for displaying the flags, but I wondered if it was more of a bold proclamation of patriotism than a true statement of pride in our democracy.
As a proud American and former United States Marine, I take pride in our country and the flag that represents it. I support the fact that we each have the freedom to express ourselves in the manner we see fit.
However, that pickup reminded me how divided our country is at this moment and how differently we each may view something as familiar as the American flag. This experience, and other recent national events, encouraged me to reflect upon the notions of patriotism and nationalism in the United States.
At the core of our division seems to be a struggle to define what it means to be a true American. I don't necessarily believe there is a definitive answer to that question, but I do believe that striving to be the best possible citizens likely would result in "a more perfect Union."
Ideally, to be the best possible citizen, one likely would strive to be a patriot. But what is a patriot? This word typically conjures visions of our Founding Fathers, Paul Revere, or Abraham Lincoln: good-intentioned people who helped advance our democracy. Those patriots live in our collective history more for what they did than for what they promised to do; their actions spoke louder than their words. Those patriots were largely selfless individuals acting for the common good.
Unfortunately, it seems some of our current citizens, including some of our leaders, struggle to emulate our historical patriots.
I, for one, am no saint. However, I believe that most of us have the ability (and the obligation) to think objectively, act reasonably, and sacrifice personally for the common good.
It's likely our historical patriots were no saints either, but their commitment, determination and actions were so significant they transcend history and define our country today.
My wife and I have five simple rules for our kids (and for each other): tell the truth, do your best, use the right words, be positive, and do unto others what you would have them do unto you (the Golden Rule). We have these rules so our family has guidelines that encourage us to contribute to the common good of society. They also help us increase the likelihood of positive outcomes as we navigate various scenarios in our lives. I advertise our family rules because I hope to promote a reasonable approach not only to raising children but to living life more patriotically. I think we need this. I know we need this.
Many of us fear America is losing, or has lost, its way. We have become disrespectful, spiteful, irrational, divided people. We seem to be more obsessed with the causes of our failures than with the cures. My challenge to us all is to be more patriot-like if we truly want what is best for the United States.
Let's get back to a foundation of civility that will enable us to move forward and solve our issues. Let's build this foundation from simple rules such as these. Let's become more patriot-like by supporting the common good and making personal sacrifices. Let's strive to understand opposing perspectives and engage in constructive conversations. Let's better identify the path to that "more perfect Union" so one day our great-great-grandchildren can identify us as historical patriots.
I believe the driver of that pickup truck had the best intentions of America in mind. I think we all typically have good intentions. However, we need to concede that patriotism is more than flying a flag or debating about your right to do something. We each must use the power of patriotic action to guide our communities and nation forward.
President John F. Kennedy famously called Americans to action; now we must heed that call again: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Blane Tetreault of Duluth grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota before graduating from high school in the Twin Cities. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and has worked as a marketing and public relations professional. He also has coached college football, and he owned a small business. He currently is completing a certificate in permaculture design.