What IS patriotism, anyway?
By Nicole Nutting
A succession of recent events has pointed out the lack of a cohesive definition for the word “patriotism”. Webster’s Dictionary calls it “devotion to one’s country”, a simple phrase which sounds definitive yet leaves it wide open to interpretation.
What does “devotion” look like? Is it blind acceptance of whatever laws the government passes? Is it mindless support for our country’s position on the world stage, regardless of our stance? Is it unpatriotic to even question our patriotism?!
We have three generally agreed upon symbols of our nation: the American flag, the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Naturally it’s considered in good taste to respect all three, but it’s not required by law. We can’t be arrested for desecrating the flag, for sitting out the National Anthem, or for failing to put a hand over our heart during the Pledge.
I am a firm believer in the concept of never rewarding bad behavior. This principle is highly effective in both animal training and child rearing. It encourages socially acceptable behavior in pets, and promotes integrity in human beings. Why shouldn’t this policy be applied to bad behavior exhibited by those in positions of power?
That, I believe, is the basis of Colin Kaepernick’s “irreverence” during the National Anthem. When our national leaders behave in a manner inconsistent with American values, we should not reward them with accolades. To be meaningful, respect should never be assumed, it must be earned.
There are those who feel Kaepernick’s protest is unpatriotic. I disagree. Our national identity is based on certain ideals and values described in our Constitution. When members of government and law enforcement disregard these ideals, as is the case with police brutality, shouldn’t THAT be considered unpatriotic? Those are the very people charged with setting a good example, and holding themselves to the highest standard.
Anyone devoted to a country that strays down the wrong path would appropriately call “foul” when national values are undermined. “Taking a knee” to hold our leaders accountable is what true patriotism looks like.