Friday, July 4, 2008

Patriotic Thoughts

Happy Fourth of July!

I'm in Arizona for the week and the entire paper is pretty much dedicated to patriotism and how great America is. Even the movie review section is all decked out in the red, white, and blue. It's just that time of year.

In the latest issue of Time both John McCain and Barack Obama wrote short essays about what it means to be patriotic. Both pieces are pretty much what you'd expect. McCain's is all about service and sacrifice while Obama writes about the commitment to ideals that allows all people to have a chance to thrive in this country. Both essays are closely tailored to the candidates' own biographies and campaign themes. No surprise there.

However, reading over the essays, I couldn't help but start to form my own vision of patriotism. What follows is my take.

Patriotism in this country means being true to the principles of 1776 and 1789, the years that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were created. It is from those two remarkable documents that our national identity has been shaped. As long as we are true to those ideals we will always be true to this country.

The phrase from those founding documents that most sticks with me is not the line about about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," though that is certainly inspiring. What most sticks with me is the line from the preamble to the Constitution about creating a "more perfect union." That, to me, is what America is all about.

Patriotism is not about "my country right or wrong." It isn't about where you put your hands while the national anthem plays or how often you say the pledge of allegiance. Patriotism is about devoting yourself to the idea that this country can always be made more perfect and dedicating yourself to that cause. Nothing we do can show a more profound love of our country - a more profound patriotism - that committing ourselves to the cause of perfecting our country to the best of our ability.

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