Four years ago I joined a patriotic lineage society. One of the main purposes of this organization is to promote patriotism. We, as a group, are proud of our heritage: we descend from patriots who championed the cause of freedom and fought for our independence from Great Britian. We share a belief that their sacrifices and struggles not only broke bands of tyrany, but established a government designed to recognize, promote, and protect freedom and God-given human rights.
Those who have studied history and the lives of our founding fathers and other patriots, are well aware that they were imperfect human beings. The fact that they were able to accomplish what they did in spite of those faults and frailties makes the resulting Nation all the more remarkable.
A study of history also makes it apparent that there has been much discussion, dispute, and disagreement concerning the details of government. But differing perspectives, priorities and approaches did not alter the fact that all were Americans. Americans have stood united by principles, ideals and a common history. Together we have sung and felt “Proud to be an American.”
People from other countries have recognized that there is something exceptional about the United States of America. It has been a beacon of freedom to the world. Immigrants have flocked here seeking refuge, freedom, and economic opportunities lacking in their homelands. Other countries have modeled governments after ours, hoping for the kind of prosperity we have enjoyed.
Yet, today we have Americans who seem ashamed of our Country, reject our heroes, seek to destroy our history, and even dismantle the whole system. Affirming the greatness of our Nation somehow seems to place one on what others claim as the wrong side of a great divide. Has patriotism become partisan?
A Plea, and a Dilemma
Please show me that there are Americans of both political parties who love America, cherish our freedoms and are proud of our heritage. I want to believe that those who speak hatred for our country are a small, though loud, faction. How wonderful it would be to hear all Americans unite in proclaiming the affirmations William Tyler Page wrote in The American’s Creed:
I, therefore, believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its constitution; to objey its laws; to respect its flag; and defend it against all enemies.
The American’s Creed – William Tyler Page
My dilemma is that the patriotic society I belong to is also non-political and non-partisan. I don’t want to be left wondering how to promote patriotism and share my love of country without appearing partisan. For over one hundred years this has not been a problem, and never should be.
“Principles before Personalities” is one of the often heard phrases in 12-Step Programs. The idea is closely related to “Content is more important than presentation” and “The message is more important than the messenger”.
Yet, we live in a world immersed in entertainment. We tend to worship celebrities, hanging on their every word, as if they know anything about what they are talking about. We want to be entertained, emotionally moved and excited. We are drawn to charismatic people who say things that make us feel good.
Celebrities and politicians are expert in using “flattering words”. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a speech and a crowd, until we find ourselves thinking, “wait a minute, what am I cheering?” Unfortunately, many never do pause and think. They just get carried along, repeating slogans and sound bites without thought of what they really mean or what principles they promote.
The founders of the United States knew well the range of personalities among themselves, with their unique strengths and weaknesses. These strong personalities provided challenges, especially during the writing of our Constitution. But they also provided differing, yet valuable, perspectives.
The founders probably anticipated that throughout the history of this new Nation, there would be a variety of personalities, abilities and even character among it’s leaders. They designed the government to be able to withstand occasional bad leaders. The Constitution was built upon sound principles, with a system of checks and balances.
Possible Combinations of Principles & Personalities:
Good Principles & Personalities. The ideal situation, of course, would be a having a leader with not simply a strong personality, but more importantly a strong and good character, combined with government based on good sound principles.
Good Principles & not so good Personalities. If we happen to elect a weak leader, or one of questionable character, we still may be on safe ground if all those in government adhere to good principles. A weak leader may try to promote unsound principles, but his weakness might make him ineffective, especially with other good leaders around to keep things under control and the checks and balances within our government.
Bad Principles & Personalities. The worst case would be a strong and charismatic but morally corrupt leader promoting principles that are not sound or good. This would be a potential tyrant.
The Greater Danger
There is so much focus on words in our world today. More important than what a politician says is what he actually does. All politicians make campaign promises, many very unrealistic. While this can give one an idea of what principles they promote, the better barometer is to look at what they actually do. Are their actions consistent with principles we as Americans hold dear? Do their actions predict that they will uphold the Constitution or attempt to alter it?
Our Constitution was constructed to withstand a term with an unlikeable, unpopular or ineffective President. Every four years we have the opportunity to choose someone else – someone we may actually dislike just as much for other reasons.
What our nation may not withstand is a President who abuses his power to undermine and alter the principles within the Constitution. That is a much greater danger than being led by someone we dislike.
The current promotion of unsound principles which are contrary to those principles underlying our constitution and government, seriously threatens freedom. This is especially so with those efforts which are aimed at revoking some of the bill of rights and promoting socialism.
Don’t vote for someone just because you “like them” more than others, or because you “hate” someone else. Elections are not popularity contests. We are not choosing someone to socialize with. We are choosing someone to lead. Listen to their messages and the principles they are promoting. Look at what they have done.
Study the Constitution and the principles upon which it is founded. Use those principles as your standard against which to judge the slogans and promises and proposals of politicians.
Study the history of our great Nation. Become familiar with the principles for which our founders and many since have sacrificed their lives and honor. Don’t make their sacrifices in vain by rejecting those principles and undoing their work to preserve our freedoms.
Good leadership is important. Preserving our freedoms through adhering to the principles upon which this nation was founded may be ultimately more important.
A big anniversary is coming– Our great United States of America is approaching its 250th! It is a privilege for me to become involved in very early preparations for this momentous event for one patriotic organization. I remember well the Bi-Centennial Celebration of our Nation’s founding in 1976. I felt pride and patriotism as I was able to visit sites of historical significance in Boston that year. Now as the 250th approaches, I reflect on some of the rapid and troubling changes in our country over the past decade. I begin to wonder if there may not be so much to celebrate come 2026. What will our Nation and our government look like then? I see things that threaten our Constitution and run counter to the principles upon which it was founded. Some have suggested that the deep divisiveness occurring now is a precursor of civil war.
I feel that there are some things that we as a Nation, and as individual citizens need to do, starting now or sooner, to ensure that when 2026 and its planned celebrations arrive, we will feel that our great Nation is something to be celebrated and to be proud of. Will we be committed to help preserve it for another 250 years? We owe that to our patriot founders and all who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom and government.
It is imperative that we remember our history. That, for many of our young people, means first learning about the history of our County. For others it requires diligent and honest study and reflection. The shift to include voices which had not been previously heard in the telling of history is noble and worthwhile. Yet, somehow this has become a re-writing of history with judgment and condemnation of our predecessors based on shifting social standards of today. The result is citizens, especially young ones, who are ashamed of our history – and ashamed to be Americans.
We need to remember the patriots who founded our country and those who have served her. They, like all of us, were flawed humans and products of their particular time and environment. We need to understand that context. Those patriots, in spite of or perhaps at times because of those flaws and conditions, showed great courage and made tremendous sacrifices to preserve and defend our freedoms. There is much we can learn from them. We will always be indebted to them and should be grateful for their contributions.
We need to remember the history of the world and other countries. An understanding of the government and history of other countries, will make obvious the contrast with ours. There is a reason that those early Colonists desired a different form of government than a monarchy. There is a reason that people from other countries have flocked to ours, escaping oppression. They recognize America’s greatness and see the freedom and opportunities that we too often take for granted.
We humans naturally have celebrations to help us remember significant events. Yet, somehow the significance of celebrations becomes faded or intentionally changed, and we are left with just another day off. We humans erect monuments to help us remember. Yet, we now have movements to remove monuments to erase memories that some feel are unpleasant. What will we have left to help us remember?
Remember, Remember– I hear the echos of these words from the mouths of prophets. Why? Because when we forget, history repeats itself– not the good parts of history– the destructive parts of history. We must remember to hold on to all that is good and to be grateful for it.
Return to Principles and Values
As we remember, we need to recognize and reaffirm the principles and values upon which our country was founded. These principles and values are the “why” of our government– the reason for its existence. Citizens of other countries may feel united over a homeland, predominant ethnicity, shared language or cultural identity. Since early colonization, America has been a melting pot of cultures, languages and ethnic groups. What unites Americans are those principles which we have treasured and fought for.
The principles are eternal and detailed in our founding documents, yet too many are losing sight of them. Do we still value life and liberty? Do we value individual self-determination, self-expression and self-reliance? Do we see government’s role in preserving individual rights, with all being treated equally, rather than controlling people and behavior?
We need to return to a respect of our country, its flag and other symbols, its elected offices, and each other. There is no good reason for any citizen of this country to disrespect duly elected officials or the process by which they were elected. Throughout our history we have had many great leaders, and many who were not. They are all human and flawed. The process embedded in the Constitution allows us to have a voice in our representation. It is our privilege, right and duty to hold elected leaders accountable through our votes.
We need to return to talking to each other with respect. There is way too much attacking and taking offense. This fuels divisiveness and hate. Have we forgotten how to talk to each other civilly? We need to listen– really listen with the intent to understandthose with whom we disagree, not just hear enough to come up with a stinging comeback to post on Social Media.
Breaking the Silence
Earlier this year, I wrote a number of blog posts about disturbing things happening in our country today. I shared articles and posts on Social Media and joined in discussions. As expected, there were some unpleasant reactions. Though I think I have a tough skin, I do have feelings. Mostly, I found it all very exhausting and unproductive. I felt I had better things to occupy my time. Other worthwhile things did keep me away from blogging for a good part of the year. At one point, a blog post kind of wrote itself, yet I did not follow through and post it.
I became one more of the many silent Americans. We all have a valuable perspective. We do have something worthwhile to say. Yet, too often, we don’t speak out of fear of being attacked, “educated”, or shamed because we don’t have the “correct” view.
So, I now feel that it is important that I speak up, regardless of the reaction. I have heard the call for some time, but I guess I needed to hear it at 4:00 a.m. on the night we were supposed to get an extra hour of sleep. I will now commit to myself to blog more about topics that I feel are important and in my small way, help to prepare Americans for our 250th in 2026. Who knows how many will hear my messages, or how they will react, but I can speak up. It is my right– even my duty– as a citizen of the United States of America.
My earliest memories of anything political were in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected President. After the election, I remember asking my parents who they had voted for. I was shocked to learn that they had voted for the loser. To my 5-year-old mind, what seemed important was being on the winning side – to pick the winner, not the loser.
After many years and many elections, I must admit I have voted for many losers. This is not always something I have felt bad about.
In recent years, I have had much exposure to Reality TV contests. Many of these involve viewers in the process of picking a winner. I admit I am not one who actually calls in votes. But I do take some pride in being able to “predict” who will win, or who I think “should” win.
We all have constant exposure to sports contests. Some loyal fans cheer for their team no matter what, but others take pride in predicting the winner of any particular contest. We all want our team to win. No one wants to be a loser, or be mocked for supporting a loser.
Winning and Losing in Politics
Is our political process becoming much the same as these Reality TV contests? We have become so partisan. Are we so concerned about our party winning that we are not looking at individual candidates, their character, record, and stand on issues? How many approach elections like like my 5-year-old self where being on the winning side is more important than making an informed decision and acting according to conscience?
We have people taking polls, people analyzing and predicting who will win political contests, and news commentators constantly telling us these predictions. Before any actual votes are cast, we are told who will win. As the process proceeds, we are reminded daily of who the “front-runner” is – the likely winner. Is this a self-fulfilling prophesy?
When someone wins on a show there is a celebration and maybe brief talk show appearances – the 15 minutes of fame. Then the winner goes home with the prize. The next season starts over with new contestants.
With elections we are stuck with the winner, who actually has to do some work for a whole term in office. And they have to work with others elected from the opposing party. Real consequences result from elections. The sad reality is that we can all end up losers.
I recently heard a very moving solo rendition of America the Beautiful. I will share some my reflections on America the Beautiful – the song and my Country.
Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
I have a vivid memory of a night spent in the wilderness of Wyoming. Above me was a full dome of bright stars. There were no buildings or mountains or even many trees to block the view. There were no city lights to dim the brightness of the stars. I stood in awe of the vastness of the sky and the earth.
I recall driving along a highway past fields of ripening grain as far as I could see. I have see the sun shine on oceans on both sides of our vast land. I am personally privileged to live surrounded by majestic mountains, some purple in the distance, and others so close I can enjoy them any time I go outside my house.
I am amazed by the grandeur and beauty of the landscapes throughout this vast country. I appreciate the variety of land and climate which allow for bounteous harvests of food to sustain and prosper her people.
The lack of respect I see in the world today disturbs me. I think ultimately the respect or disrespect we show tells more about our own character than about the object of our respect or disrespect. We need to be respectful for our own sake.
Respect is related to civility, courtesy and politeness, but I think it goes deeper than these. Definitions include feelings of esteem or honor as well as courteous behavior. We rightly respect those we hold in very high regard based on their personal character or achievements. There is a sense of duty or obligation to show deference towards those in high positions. Civility requires this, regardless of our personal feelings toward such persons. Respect also includes showing consideration for others and their rights.
I just had the privilege of participating in a citizenship ceremony which has caused me to reflect on some things related to some of my Word of the Month posts, including this month’s word which is Privilege.
I attended a Court of Naturalization and witnessed a number of individuals become Citizens of the United States of America. My simple part in the ceremony was leading the singing of the National Anthem, which was certainly not a highlight of the day, especially considering technical difficulties with audio.
The highlight for me was when the new citizens stood and introduced themselves, telling where they had come from and their feelings about this new citizenship. In spite of, or perhaps more accurately because of, the fact that this journey had taken a great deal of desire, time and effort on their part, it was apparent that they did feel that this was a great privilege. They came from an interesting assortment of countries and backgrounds. There was a recognition that there is something special about being “American”, including rights and opportunities unavailable to them in other countries. There were expressions of gratitude for this new citizenship and those who had helped and supported them in their journeys. Some expressed excitement about new opportunities to participate and immediately afterwards registered to vote.
Do we who have been privileged to be born into citizenship appreciate what we have? Do we recognized that among all the inhabitants of this world past and present, we are among the most privileged? Do we appreciate the sacrifice others have made for us to enjoy these privileges?