I’m a proud American and I love my country. In that respect, I do consider myself a patriot.
I’m also a big romance fan who genuinely appreciates the power of love.
As a result, my understanding of love has an impact on my understanding of patriotism. You can look up the definition of patriotism and love to get a basic understanding of the concept. However, a basic understanding will only take you so far. It’s also shallow. It only scratches the surface of a much deeper feeling.
Now, in the spirit of the 4th of July, America’s most patriotic holiday, I thought I’d take a moment to share my understanding of what it means to be patriotic and to love your country. I feel like it’s an important message to send, given the events of the past year.
I won’t bemoan those events or the people, politics, and ideology behind it. Love and patriotism go beyond all that. This is me, a proud American, seeking to share my perspective with my other fellow Americans as we get ready to celebrate the country we so deeply love.
To love your country is like to love your family. You didn’t choose the time, place, or circumstances of your birth. You came into it vulnerable and unaware. You grow up in it with the support, guidance, and values of those around you. They seek to protect you and you seek to learn from them.
It’s not always ideal. Nothing ever is. That doesn’t stop you from loving your family, nor does it stop you from loving your country.
Later on in life, you seek a different kind of love with another. You look for that special someone who you can love with all your heart and who will love you back in return. It’s not an easy search. You’re bound to endure loss, heartache, and disappointment along the way, but you keep searching. You endure because that feeling and that connection is just that powerful.
When you find that love, you sense that power. It fills you with energy, passion, and resolve. You come to cherish it. You’re willing to fight to protect it at all costs. We admire that kind of drive in others. We cling to it, as it becomes part of our identity.
This kind of love is very similar to patriotism. Our love for our country is very much an extension of our love for our family. The same energy that drives us to love, cherish, and protect our loved ones drives us to do the same for our country. Many Americans share that feeling. However, like with the love we have for families and spouses, it can blind us.
There’s a fine line between love and obsession.
By that same token, there’s a fine line between patriotism and blind loyalty.
One is healthy and productive while the other is toxic and damaging. A big part of loving someone is not ignoring their flaws. When they’re wrong, you point it out. When they’re doing something destructive, you try to stop them. When they’re wounded, lost, or angry, you try to help them. That’s what you do for someone you love. That’s also what you do for your country.
The United States of America is a wonderful place, but it’s not perfect. The history of this country has has many dark moments. Both the government and large swaths of its citizens have been wrong, unjust, and misguided on a great many subjects since its founding. Ignoring that isn’t an act of love or patriotism. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
You don’t let someone you love keep doing what you know is wrong.
You don’t let someone you love descend into toxic, self-destructive cycles.
You don’t let someone you love forget their mistakes, thereby never learning from them.
The same applies to your country. To love it is to love its flaws, too. To love it is to want to see it get better. Like with those we love, we want them to become the best version of themselves they can be. Again, it’s challenging and even daunting at times. However, we endure because that’s what we do for someone we love.
As a patriot, you want your country to be the best it can be. That’s exactly what I want for America. That’s what I seek to celebrate every Fourth of July holiday.
I understand that not everyone has the same vision for this country as I do. Some actively pursue a vision for this country that’s utterly antithetical to the ideals it was founded upon all those years ago. Those are not patriots because they aren’t guided by love. They’re guided by selfish agendas.
In both love and patriotism, you can’t be selfish. You can’t be guided by hate or malice. You have to be willing to do what’s right and difficult over what’s selfish and expedient. You and those you love will make mistakes. Everybody does. We’re all flawed, imperfect human beings. Every country, including America, is made up of those same beings.
That’s why we keep striving to be better. Like any good loving relationship, you encourage those you love to be better with you. You work together, but not by always agreeing on everything or avoiding conflict. True love is a willingness to take the bad with the good and confront both.
This is a perspective that has always been crucial for patriotic Americans, but never more so than recently. After over 200 years, we’ve had plenty of time to grow and mature. We’re not a young country anymore. We’re one of the most powerful nations on the planet. With that power comes responsibility and we must never forget that.
Keep that in mind as you celebrate your love for your country, as I will be doing in a few days. Each year brings a new challenge for us all. Let’s be willing to face it, but let us do so while remembering what it truly means to love our country as true patriots.