“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”
― Susan B. Anthony
The most surprising thing has happened. The most unexpected little gift has occurred. The most quiet, spark of light has come through. In the midst of the most controversial and unsettling political era of my lifetime, I have received a gentle gift.
It’s a gift that easily slips away, if I’m not careful.
The gift is, I have fallen in love.
I have fallen in love with the country in which I live.
I confess that I have taken her for granted.
It’s the gift of heart-swelling patriotism for its history, its ideals and its beauty. Who would have thought that such a tenacious and brutal election season, would stir up such deep patriotism?
Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as simply “love or devotion to one’s country.” Notice that it is not defined as having pride in one’s country, or believing that one country is better than another’s. Patriotism is not elitism. Patriotism is not nationalism. Patriotism is more about serving than being served, just like falling in love. Because when you fall in love, you would do anything for the one you love. – Remember? Remember falling in love with your sweetheart? How you would do anything to help your beloved – bring him cookies when he was studying, bring her flowers when she was sad? – You were their love-sick servant.
Patriotism is that deep devotion that is not interested in arguing. You can’t argue about how much you love someone, you just take care of them, support them, honor them and make sure they are o.k. Putting it simply, Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
This does not mean that we are perfect. The people we love, are not perfect and neither is our country. We fail, let it each other down, sin, and forget. We mess up. And when that happens, leaders show up who set us on the right path. They remind us that “the greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself” (FDR).
They remind us to come together. Perhaps the bravest speech of all time, were these words given to us when we were the most fragile: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” – Abraham Lincoln.
Patriotism is not love of party or a particular person. It cannot be bottled into one particular point of view. It is more patriotic to honor another person’s point of view than to dishonor it by discounting it. In other words, if we all come to the table with the same love and devotion for our country, we can start healing. But we must see the other person’s patriotism equal to our own. Nobody owns the corner market on patriotism.
I have decided that worry does not serve me, and more importantly it does serve my country. Fear does not honor the people who fought for the values upon which we stand. Anger does nothing for the ideals of this land.
But love and devotion, love and devotion, deep gratitude and a willingness to serve and rise up – this is patriotism and it matters.
For the next 100 days, and the next 100 days after that, I’m going to focus on what I love about this country. I am going to focus on all of things that I have taken for granted and be grateful for them. I am going to make sure I am part of protecting them and ensuring that they are not dismantled. Instead of feeling anger or fear or arguing about numbers or pictures or who is right and who is wrong, I’m going to look for the good and try to make it better – for as long as I have breath, this is my promise and my pledge.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.