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Thoughts on American Patriotism

America, warts and all, is a great country, perhaps the greatest man has ever produced. We have our skeletons, plenty of them, but our trajectory has always been toward fulfilling those aspirations Thomas Jefferson provided in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...." It's true that when the Declaration was signed, only wealthy white men enjoyed those rights, but our nation has always been a work in progress.

The United States hasn't fully achieved Jefferson's vision yet, but, in fits and starts, we have sought to ensure equal rights and liberties for all. And, the process of realizing the Declaration's promise is what makes American patriotism so wondrous. We reject "love it or leave it" and "my nation right or wrong" patriotism ; it's antithetical to our ideals and our can-do spirit. Step by step, struggle by struggle, we have recognized that we won't be the nation that our founders envisaged until everyone is treated equally and has the liberty to pursue happiness.

So, American patriotism isn't about flag waving and simple-minded jingoism, it's much harder than that. True patriotism means righting wrongs, advocating change, taking unpopular stands, knocking on doors, and standing up for the weak. Its means being part of the solution rather than providing excuses for the problem.

American patriotism led to our struggles to ensure equality for people of color, women, Jews and Muslims, gays and lesbians. Patriots led the charge for safe drinking water, rights for workers to organize, and greater access to an education and health care. None of this was easy and we are far from finished, but our efforts have defined us as a nation and have been a beacon to the world. People around the globe respect America, not for our wealth or nuclear weapons, but because we represent liberty and inclusion, a melting pot of equals.

Happy Fourth of July!


By: Don Lam

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