I know Independence Day has come and gone…and it was a mighty strange one, but love and pride for one’s country doesn’t just fall on one day. I’ve been thinking a lot about “my” country, which is actually OUR country. It IS mine because I am a citizen, but I don’t own it…I share it with all the other residents. ALL of the other residents, not just those that I like or are like me. I love my/our country because we are so diverse, and yet we are so alike.
I do love my/our country. To show my patriotism, I fly the flag. I wear red, white and blue on and around holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, etc. But external is only a very small part of the way that I show my love for this country. It is the visible, but the invisible is so much more important. For if you “show” your patriotism but do not act it, I do not think you truly love our country. You can fly your flag and wear the colors, but if you don’t ACT then it is just a facade of falsehood.
What follows is MY thoughts and opinions (as are most of what I write in this blog), so you are more than welcome to disagree with me. As a matter of fact, one of the things I DO love and am proud of is that as a country we are allowed to speak our mind; we can voice our opinions. With that said, if you love this country then you should take pride in the fact that we have the ability to disagree with each other. Of course if you love this country you should respectfully listen to others thoughts and opinions. NOT agree, but show a mutual respect and speak in such a way that shows respect. Idealistic I know, but we can work towards it. And when respect is no longer possible, we can walk away.
To show love for this country we should be welcoming. Again, not always easy and maybe not even always possible. However, this country was founded by people looking for a new place to call home and they were welcomed by the natives. The mythology of the Pilgrims and Native Americans may not be 100% true, but the story reminds us that we should welcome and be thankful for each other. And doesn’t one of our most beloved monuments, The Statue of Liberty, decree (in a poem by Emma Lazarus):
“From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I might argue that the very foundation of our country is to welcome others. Not just those who look like us or think like us, but who come here just as our forefathers did. (And unless you are 100% Native American, which sadly represents less than 2% of our population, your ancestors came here and wanted to be welcomed.) I love America and I want to welcome my neighbors; new and old.
Love of this country means learning its history. History should not be pretty; history should be honest. History must be inclusive and not one sided. For example, I can proudly declare that I am the descendant of a man who fought in the American Revolution. But I cannot just declare that without giving the facts as I know them. (And how factual this story is, I’m not sure)
John Kilbury fought in the American Revolution, but as the story goes, the reason he fought was because as an Englishman he was captured and given the choice of prison or switching sides. He chose the latter. He stayed in New England, married and had several children. However, I have also been told that he happened to have a wife and family back in Britain. So, if the tale holds true, I am a descendent of a traitor and a bigamist. Maybe I shouldn’t be so proud? Or does it matter? We are all imperfect human beings and we need to remember that our ancestors as well as all of those who came before us in history were not gods, but men and women with faults. Those who came before are no better than those who come after.
To love this country is to act in a way that shows our pride for this nation.
As a country, we have much to be proud of, just as we have much to be ashamed of. To love this country to be proud of our accomplishments, but not to forget our failings. To recognize that we have come far in our 240+ years while realizing that we still have a great deal more to do to truly make this the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Now more than ever is the time to not just show our love of country, but to act in love. For it is in our actions of love, caring, compassion and welcome that makes us a great nation.
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than six years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.