Record editorial: Celebrate Independence Day by living up to true meaning of patriotism
Parkites will wave American flags Thursday, and they will line Main Street and cheer for parade floats decked out in the colors of our country. They will gather with friends and family, and when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played, they will lift their hands to their hearts in unison.
It is a day for patriotism, eliciting surges of pride at the sight of the flag flapping in the wind and at the thought of what it means to call this nation home. But patriotism, in the deepest sense of the word, is about much more than standing for the stars and stripes, singing along with the national anthem and declaring, without critical thought, that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world.
True patriotism, in contrast to nationalism, involves viewing one’s country with clear eyes. Patriotic Americans don’t love their nation because they believe it is perfect. They love it despite knowing it isn’t. And they understand an important truth about America: We are at once a country whose example has lighted the way for the world for more than two centuries and a nation that often falls short of the ideals that make it great. Further, patriots fight for what they believe to be right.
Adhering to that definition of patriotism has seldom been more important than it is right now, a time when our country has slipped into dangerous waters.
Our president, sworn to uphold the Constitution, instead threatens it. He tests our country’s institutions and bends important norms. He spurns allies while courting enemies. He wields the pulpit of his office to deceive and divide the American people rather than enlighten and inspire. When given the choice, he puts himself before country.
The heart-rending situation at the border is perhaps the most stark example of the crisis America faces. Reasonable citizens can disagree about immigration policy and whether it is America’s duty to provide shelter to the huddled masses yearning to be free. What cannot be debated, though, is that a nation with our resources has a moral duty to treat the people who have risked everything to come here with a level of basic dignity that should be afforded all humans.
The current administration’s unwillingness to live up to that obligation, as well as its other failures, is a stain on our history. We remain, for many reasons, the greatest country on earth. There’s a reason, after all, migrants and asylum seekers flock to our borders. The misdeeds of one president — and those who have enabled him — do not change that.
This Independence Day, stand proudly, as always, for the flag and soak in the pomp of one of our most treasured holidays. But couple the festivities with an act of true patriotism that hearkens back to the nation’s founding principles: recognize that America, at this moment, is falling short and demand our leaders do better.
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To the recent discussion on trail etiquette, recall the Law of the Jungle. When moving about, the smaller, quicker, more maneuverable, yield to the larger, stronger, more lethal. Without written rules, we all follow this law instinctively.