There has come about a change in the public perception of what a patriot is – and it is not a good change. Most of us have been fans of a certain sports team or television show or type of car. Having an opinion or valuing something we like is a good thing. However it sometimes happens that we get into the mode of thinking that our team or car or show is superior in every way to every other team or car or show. They can do no wrong and everyone that can’t see that is either stupid or misinformed.
So it is with countries, political parties or candidates. A person who says “My country, right or wrong!” or “If you don’t vote for (insert name or party here), you are stupid, incompetent or dishonest,” is not being a true patriot.
A patriot is one who understands the principles of freedom, is always learning and comparing truth and integrity with what is actually being said and done, and is always willing to confront the errors or corruption they see – even if those problems originate with the country, party or person they have been allied with. A patriot requires of themselves a personal introspection and a willingness to see the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. A patriot stands up for the principles that matter, even when it may cost them something. A patriot may be called a traitor or a coward or a criminal by those in power, if their pursuit of truth and principle takes them into conflict with the powers that be.
The greatest patriots we look to in our history are Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and others of their time. These and others, including the signers of the Declaration of Independence, were called traitors because they dared to criticize and separate themselves from the “home team” of the British Empire. Those who stood up and called slavery a plague and an abomination were ridiculed and hated by some. Winston Churchill was ostracized by many in the British government until he was proven right about the dishonesty of Hitler’s Germany. Gandhi was called a coward because he wouldn’t physically fight against the government who occupied his country. All of them stood in support of truth, principle and the good of their people and of mankind. All were true patriots. All succeeded in making the world better or stopping evil from taking or keeping power.
Patriots are not those who numbly go with the unexamined status quo. They are thinking, caring and informed. They act, speak and vote in support of the principles and people who are doing what they should. My hope is that we all are willing to take the time and effort to be true patriots and not just puppets.