Patriotism seems to be far less common than it used to be. Unless you’re in the military or live in a military town, chances are most of the people around you don’t proudly fly the American flag in their homes, they only wear red, white, and blue one day a year, and they rarely express their pride in being an American citizen. That’s what I’ve noticed, anyway. It wasn’t long ago that I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, learned all about American history along with spelling and math, and felt oh-so proud to be American. As I grew into adolescence, that sense of pride diminished. It didn’t totally disappear from me, as it seemed to from the majority of my peers. But suddenly it wasn’t so cool to be patriotic. It was no longer a priority and I saw some people get teased about it.
One day when I was about 18-years-old, I noticed one of my older brothers wearing a navy blue t-shirt with a bald eagle and an american flag on it. It was a random time of year, and in my shallow attitude and lack of understanding I said, “Why are you wearing that shirt? It’s not Independence Day.” He looked at me with a disappointed expression and firmly replied, “I’m happy to be American every day, Janae. Not just on the 4th of July.”
I suddenly felt so ashamed of myself for what I thought of patriotism. How ridiculous and ungrateful I was to think that having pride in my country was lame or uncool! Having pride in America is much more important than trying to fit in or be cool. It’s more than having a barbecue with family and friends on July 4th. It’s more than watching fireworks shows that night. It’s more than wearing red, white, and blue. It’s more than standing quietly when the national anthem is played.
American pride means revering the founding fathers. It means respecting and outwardly expressing gratitude to those who have fought and continue to fight for you to keep your freedoms. It means praying for our country’s leaders, whether you like them or not. It means displaying the American flag with honor. It means respecting the past enough to learn from it and discuss it openly. It means more than words can adequately express. The reverence and gratitude that should accompany every American citizen should be personal, since the lives lost and sacrifices made for us to be where we are and who we are were also very, very personal.
As we celebrate America’s Independence Day, I hope the festivities, food, and fun bring a little bit of bliss to your week. I hope you find joy in the national holiday. I also hope that you remember to celebrate America during the rest of the year, and that your national pride runs deeper than a red or blue t-shirt that you pull out once every 365 days. It was, after all, far more than that to the men and women who gave us our freedoms in the first place.
contributing blogger & editor