What does it mean to be a patriot?

Many people claim to love America while hating the vast majority of people in it.  They threaten to commit violence against our government if they don’t get their way.  They moan about how immigrants and minorities are ruining our country and how, when whites become the minority, we will no longer be America.  And they think that these positions make them patriots.

That’s not patriotic.  That’s the opposite of what America is all about.  Remember “all men are created equal”?  Sam_Patriotic_Eagle_American_Flag-02md

Patriotism doesn’t mean loving your country unconditionally.  It’s not “love it or leave it” it’s “love it or make it something you love.”  It means working to change it when you disagree with it.

Part of the problem we have these days is that there are many people who hate government.  They love America and hate government.  They have poisoned the minds of many people into thinking that the government is the enemy, while forgetting that we are the government.  We, the people.  Those guys in Washington are just there to represent us, and if we actually get out and vote and participate, we can change them.

Often the loudest complainers are the ones who never vote, never write their representatives, and never lift a finger to make things better.  But when it comes to whining about how government doesn’t represent their interests, they’re right in front.

Other complainers are like religious fundamentalists — they are convinced that their interpretation of the (insert one:  Bible / Constitution) is the only one and everyone else is not only wrong but evil.  These people will often use violence to enforce their narrow views in the mistaken belief that they, and only they, are (holy / patriotic).  They, too, are anything but.

Politicians will sometimes point to farmlands and small rural towns as perfect examples of our “heartland” where true patriotic Americans live.  I feel patriotic when I walk down the streets of Manhattan, surrounded by people of all races, religions, and backgrounds, all living together in relative peace and harmony.   Interracial and gay marriages aren’t a sign of the downfall of America — it is the best example of how the American dream is being achieved.  Where all are created equal and treated equally and where we can set the stage for the rest of the world to see how it is possible to live together.

That’s patriotism to me.  Bringing us all together is patriotic.

Those who want to divide us are not supporting America.

Love it or leave it!

It’s our Independence Day, and mindless patriots are popping up all over the internet bragging about how much they love America while hating a majority of the people in America.cropped-cropped-us_flag_header.jpg

Usually, these “patriots” rant about how we need to protect America from immigrants and liberals and those who would change America from its original greatness. They proclaim their love for America and see any criticism of it as treasonous. “Love it or leave it!” they scream. (Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that many of these people never see their own criticism of liberal Presidents as treason.)

That’s the exact opposite of true patriotism. Our country was not founded on the idea that we should never challenge our government.

So let’s be true patriots. Let’s work to make America better. Replace “Love it or leave it” with “Love it and improve it.”

As (now-Senator) Al Franken once said, “Conservatives love America like a child loves his mommy, and mommy can do no wrong. Whereas we [liberals] love America like an adult loves someone, recognizing our mate has faults and taking the good with the bad, and always working to appreciate what’s there, being critical of what’s wrong and trying to help and make it better.”

That’s patriotism.