Editor's note: This article was originally published in June 2003 Patriotism these days is like Christmas—lots of people caught up in a festive atmosphere replete with lights and spectacles.
We hear reminders about “the true meaning” of Christmas—and we may even mutter a few guilt-ridden words to that effect ourselves—but each of us spends more time and thought in parties, gift-giving, and the other paraphernalia of a secularized holiday than we do deepening our devotion to the true meaning.
I understand that America has often fallen short of the superlative ideas expressed in the Declaration.
That hasn’t diminished my reverence for them, nor has it dimmed my hope that future generations of Americans will be re-inspired by them.
Patriotism is love of country, if by “country” you mean scenery—amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesty, and the like.
Almost every country has pretty collections of rocks, water, and stuff that people grow and eat.
I hope the Ugandans and Paraguayans have lofty ideals they celebrate when they feel patriotic, but whether or not they do is a question you’ll have to ask them.
I can only tell you what patriotism means to me as an American.
And while it’s always fitting to mourn those who lost their lives simply because they resided on American soil, that too does not define patriotism. They are endowed not by government but by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
People in every country and in all times have expressed feelings of something we flippantly call “patriotism,” but that just begs the question. Can it be so cheap and meaningless that a few gestures and feelings make you patriotic? I subscribe to a patriotism rooted in ideas that in turn gave birth to a country, but it’s the that I think of when I’m feeling patriotic. Or, if you’re like most Americans these days, read it for the very first time. Premier among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.