Are you a patriot?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Each day in grade school we started with our hands over our hearts, bodies and faces toward the door where the flag was prominently displayed, and together recited the words we knew by heart.

Sure, when we were that young, we often fidgeted and stood on one foot and then another, and couldn’t wait to be done to tell our desk mates our plans for recess. We were all so different from each other.

And yet the same.

But each day we had the clear reminder of just what a privilege it is for each of us as unique individuals to live in this country, the land of the free, and in fact a Promised Land. As children we were clearly familiar with what it was to stand together and face the same direction as unified compatriots.

flag2I remember that the big thing to look forward to was when we were in sixth grade when, two by two, we had the responsibility of taking the large American flag out to the pole in the courtyard and in the morning raising it up, and at the end of the lowering it down. Mr. Wiser was our coach and trainer to make sure it was folded correctly and it never touched the ground. We never let our flag be out in rainy or snowy weather.

Again, through sheer repetition and prominent placement in our daily schedule we had no doubt of the importance of our county.

That’s just it, isn’t it? OUR country.

Not just yours, not just mine.

Ours.

We read and see and hear many people of late who declare with passion their status as a true patriot. But it is discouraging that what usually follows is a tirade AGAINST an elected official or a group or an idea that they find distasteful.

I can’t help but wonder if our grade-school children are taking this new example as the true definition of what it is to be a patriot: someone who is angry and in some cases seen as a bit of a radical.

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I hope not.

What is a patriot?

A simple definition is a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. More complex would include a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

A few postings ago we talked about playing offense to avoid being offensive. Now I wonder if we can be a defender without grinding our “enemy” into the ground.

Does a defender have to be angry? Or shouting? Or spraying spittle in the other person’s face? Or hurling defamatory or derogatory insults?

I don’t think so.

Not if they are a sincere defender of truth. You know, a real patriot: a person who loves, supports and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

We seem to skip over the loving, supporting and devotion part.

I am grateful for all those years reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It helped me cement into my understanding that we are not a democracy so much as we are a republic. We carefully choose and elect people who best represent our views and positions and send them to work. Their job is to study out and learn and grapple with all the details of issues – something that we have no ability to do as we don’t have access to all the information.

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And then we trust them to make the best decisions they can for the good of the citizenry, even when the decisions may not be popular, even when the results may cause us a little discomfort in our standard of living, even when it may mean that we compromise on one issue to get what is really important to us on another.

After all, it isn’t just my country or yours.

It’s OURS.

It’s kind of funny in a sad way. We spend much of our time complaining about what our elected officials are and aren’t doing, but have a hard time showing up to the local precinct meetings once every two years to elect our neighborhood governmental body, and an even harder time showing up to vote in primaries and general elections.

Hmmm.

Not very patriotic if you think about it.

I read a talk given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson a few days ago and was struck pretty profoundly by one sentence:

“The actions of individuals add up to the culture of a community.”

I’m not sure we should have to loudly and angrily declare ourselves to be patriots in an effort to set ourselves apart from the crowd.

I don’t want to live in an angry community.

Wouldn’t it make more sense if we all just simply acted as patriots?

I know, there may not be as much excitement in loudly defending and arguing. It may even feel more like drudgery in quietly loving and supporting each other with devotion, especially when we disagree.

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But I just can’t help but wonder if all those perceived boring individual actions couldn’t add up to quite a solid and stable community culture.

More than 40 years have passed since I stood with my childhood friends, but I still feel humbled to pledge allegiance to the flag.

It is a reminder of a time when we all stood together, unified in what we stood FOR.

Being a patriot shouldn’t be something that sets us apart from the crowd; it really should be something that identifies us as a unified community, especially with all our different ideas and contributions.

Standing as individual patriots, together.

 

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