Monday, September 8, 2008

Patriotism: What Degree Are You?

By Randy Gaddo

On this, the seventh year after the unprecedented terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, I have cause to ponder what the letter and intent of the word Patriotism really means to people.

The reason I ponder this is that on Sept. 6th a diverse group of organizations and individuals put forth significant effort to hold a Patriot Day event at Falcon Field in Peachtree City. Patriot Day was declared by Presidential Proclamation since 2002 as a day to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11th, 2001 and to re-ignite the passionate unity and Patriotism that Americans felt in the immediate aftermath. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who physically defend the country.

In this city of 35,000, about 400 were in attendance. That’s about 1 percent of the population. It is interesting and, perhaps, meaningful that in American history, about 1 per cent of the population has served in the military expect during times of war, when that percentage was somewhat higher.

The Patriot Day event had been well publicized in local media, on web sites, via email distribution lists and by other means. There was a 2nd Annual Freedom Walk held in conjunction with the event and about 150 people walked in that – more than last year, but still not the quantity anticipated.

Many people put in a lot of time planning and preparing for this event. A senior at Sandy Creek High School organized the Freedom Walk. Three music groups prepared selections, including a middle school band that had to prepare in the rush of a new school year. Middle and high school young men and women practiced to perform honors to the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force detail cleaned their hangar to be site of the event. A dedicated guest speaker brought a rare and insightful message to those fortunate enough to hear her.

But her message should have been heard by thousands of citizens, not just a few hundred. Why, on an occasion where American Patriotism should be ringing forth like the Liberty Bell once did, why were there only a handful of citizens on hand to hear?

Patriotism is one of those ethereal terms that can mean many things to many people. Generally, it applies to love and devotion to one’s country.

The concept of Patriotism isn’t generally applied to any other physical entity other than one’s country. You aren’t “patriotic” about your family, though you are loving and devoted to it. School children aren’t “patriotic” about their school, though they can support it. So we’re talking about love and devotion to one’s country.

Let’s face it, most countries couldn’t exist without Patriotism, which is normally driven by common goals and/or beliefs. How could a country survive the many challenges it faces if not for a common love and devotion that is in the heart of every citizen?

Patriotism can have many degrees of intensity. I submit that the ultimate degree of Patriotism is a willingness to sacrifice the warmth and safety of one’s own home fires to deploy abroad prepared to fight and die for one’s country. Perhaps an even higher degree is to promote the peaceful and free principals that your country stands for and help another country achieve them at the risk of your own life.

The minimum degree of Patriotic intensity would be supporting those who are prepared to engage in the highest degree. I think one means of showing support would be to attend local events held to celebrate Patriotism.

Based on turnout here, about 1 percent of the citizens care enough to carve out a couple of hours a year to celebrate Patriotism at the lowest degree. Again, an interesting parallel; only about 1 percent care enough to volunteer their lives to serve at the highest degree of Patriotism. I wonder about the other 98 percent.

Children often learn from their parents’ example. Leaders often set the example for their followers. If parents and leaders don’t set the example of Patriotic expression for our youth and followers, who will?

There’s an adage that asks: If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear, does it still make a sound? I think a similar adage could be coined for Patriotism: If Patriotism lives but there are only a few there to hear it, does it live at all?

I think every American needs to look into his or her own heart and ask: “In what degree of Patriotism am I living?”
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