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We currently have a good portion of our population that displays what could be called “sports bandwagon” patriotism. Just like people who suddenly consider themselves to be die hard fans of a sports team when they have a good season, advance in the playoffs or acquire a highly sought after talent, there are those who primarily speak of supporting our country and leaders when things “appear” to be going the way they want. But should they begin losing and the tide seem to be changing, they are just as quick to begin outright disrespecting our elected leaders. They will refer to them in derogatory terms or even compared to them likes of Hitler or Stalin. Some will even speak of succession and civil war. How odd it is to hear someone in one breath almost worship the “founding fathers”, and in another casually talk about doing what they would have disapproved of most fervently.
Commitment mainly conditioned on things going our way is not really commitment or support at all. But yet, there is another picture of patriotism that has recently been in my mind. It is the polar opposite of that which is mentioned above. I am referring to the Black, Latino, “Native” American and other peoples who served in the armed forces during the Revolutionary, Civil, World and other wars throughout our history. These were the wars when they actually faced the likes of Hitler and Stalin. But what makes them the equivalent of super patriots are the struggles they faced alongside their military service.
To begin, they were often barred from serving in the first place. And even when they were allowed to officially enlist, they were only allowed to do menial tasks. They actually had to fight for the right to put their lives on the line for this country. Now just think about that and let it sink in for a minute. Someone actually pushing and demanding for the opportunity to lay their life down for their country. But then it gets deeper.
Even when they were allowed to serve, they did so with the hope of gaining respect for themselves and their people. However, they were well aware of the likely reality of returning home and still being treated as second-class citizens without many of the rights the Constitution claimed to grant. And in many cases, this is exactly what happened.
So let us recap. You are fighting for the right to risk your life for a country which, both previously and afterward, invalidates who you even are as a human being . Yet regardless of those circumstances, you are still that patriotic to the country in which you live. How many of us could say our patriotism runs that deep? Who among us is so willingly to honorably serve a nation which would systematically dishonor us?
With this outlook in mind, we now need to fast forward to our current political climate. It is truly disheartening to see people who claim to be so patriotic, but apparently hold a greater allegiance to their political ideals than the actual country which allows them to do so with such disrespect. And worst of all, they then begin the hypocritical process of claiming those who are critical of them when things are going their way of being “unpatriotic.” How petty do the political squabbles and nitpicking broadcast on cable news and social media 24/7 appear in light of the aforementioned soldiers?
As we reflect on the sacrifice of men and women of past and present who serve to protect what they love, a few more questions must be raised. When people who were slaves, “boys”, niggers, spics, engines, bitches and whoever else served our country, did it matter what president was in office? Did they hold off on their service until a certain political party had a majority in congress? Did they even have the right to vote for any of those people in any case? Would they really prefer lip-service and bumper stickers saying “support our troops” over some appreciation from their beloved country in the form of equal rights? Were they even getting any kind of pension, college scholarships or medical insurance?
So when people of any political background want to start throwing around the term “patriotism”, how about we use it in the context of those who fought and died for the mere right to fight and die for their country regardless of whether or not their country chose to honor and acknowledge them as full citizens deserving of the protection of its laws. In that regard, how many of us are truly a patriot? Many of us will find it too difficult to fathom willingly putting ourselves in that position for the sake of our country. And when such is the case, perhaps the least we could do to be patriotic in honor of those would is to keep our mouths shut.
By Corey Dorsey