Mandatory patriotism in politics

Recently, Republicans have made an issue out of a piece of clothing one of their opponents has failed to wear in his past few public outings. No, it is not about the Yankees hat LeBron James wore to Jacobs Field when his hometown Indians were facing New York in the Division Series of the baseball playoffs, although complaints about that had much more validity than this latest fabricated controversy.

It was actually about the fact that Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has decided not to put an American flag lapel on his suit jacket, which is something he had done earlier in his campaign. Because of their incredibly ignorant reasoning, some Republicans, along with a few political analysts and talk show hosts, took this to mean that Obama is not patriotic. Please stop me when this insults your intelligence.

The amount of things wrong with the criticism of Obama will be examined more closely later, but the entire debate brings up a larger issue about patriotism. Nobody has been able to define this very complex term in our proud American society yet, and it is probably futile to even attempt this arduous task, which means, of course, that I will give it a shot.

Patriotism, in my opinion, is the ability to love your country so much that you will do anything necessary to continue to make it a better place. Part of this love is rooted in the ability to question your leaders, exercise your rights, follow the laws of the land, and treat your fellow citizens with respect by allowing them to hold differing opinions from your own.

It is not, however, simply rooted on any symbol. The greatness of America is based on the very important foundation that the ability to burn our flag in protest is just as vital as the flag itself. There are hardly any countries which allow citizens to exude the freedom necessary to engage in such an act, and that is one of the best things about the United States.

There are many Americans who would vehemently disagree with my assessments of this issue though. The fact that they would become so agitated and angry with me would indicate that they do not value the opinions of all citizens, but rather just those who support their point of view.

These are probably the same Americans who believe that the only way to call yourself a patriot is by following and supporting whatever our Commander-In-Chief says or does, while waving an American flag where everyone sees it.

My problem with some of these citizens is not these actions, which they have the absolute right to perform, but rather how they treat those who do not march to the beat of the same drum. In my opinion, the people who express this point of view are simply insecure about their own patriotism.

These flag-waving citizens call those who do not carry this symbol with them all of the time un-American, and anybody who questions the president is labeled as a traitor. These brands have been placed upon me at one time or another, and it does not affect me in the slightest bit because I realize my exorbitant amount of love for this country.

A real patriot does not have to tell people he or she is this way because others can see it through his or her actions intended to improve this country.

Many of my beliefs have been derived from the principles of my father who bravely served in the United States military for ten years of his life. He does not feel the need to tattoo the American flag on his forehead or put it up in front of our house every day, although he does on certain national holidays. He believes the love he has for this country has been exhibited by his dedicated military service.

If anyone wishes to have a discussion about the meaning of patriotism and how it should be expressed, I am pretty sure my father will be glad to meet you anytime. Although attempting to convince a man who requested to serve in the Vietnam War that he lacks the attitudes of a good American would be a next to impossible task.

This whole issue started with an uproar from some Americans about a pin that Barack Obama did not have with him. The fact that anyone is bringing this up raises the question of whether or not we have more important things to discuss. A few of these might include the war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, and the healthcare crisis in our own country, among many other issues. This story makes you desire more coverage of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.

When asked about why he did not have the American flag lapel on his suit, Obama’s response was that he did not want it to distract from his message for the United States or from his true patriotism exuded by his actions and words. This seems like a reasonable and intelligent response, but of course, he was panned for it.

In this country, which calls itself the “land of the free, and the home of the brave,” there is never a circumstance where a citizens’ patriotism should be questioned by a piece of clothing they fail to wear. Patriotism is not something that can be displayed on your jacket, but is rather a love for your country embedded in your heart.

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