Patriotism is not seen in actions of Americans

Monday, July 14, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:15 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No one I encounter on a daily basis wears a flag pin on his lapel, stands on a corner singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” all day or goes around town accusing other people of being non-patriots. Instead, these men and women seem to obey the laws of the land, pay their taxes, work hard to support their families, volunteer in their community, pledge their allegiance to the flag when appropriate and as far as anyone knows, they do not belong to terrorist groups. Personally, I consider them to be average American citizens.

Apparently, this year’s election has brought out of hiding a new group of people who suffer from the delusion (another form of denial), that “we the people” all share a single life experience as Americans. According to their vision, no one grew up on an American Indian reservation, in Appalachia or in an inner-city ghetto; no one has ever been poor, hungry or discriminated against, and therefore we should all sing praises to America every minute of every hour of every day. Most of the people I encounter consider themselves fortunate to live in a free country. But they don’t feel they need to wear signs on their back to make everyone aware of that fact; they believe that practicing the rules of good citizenship is proof enough of their patriotism.

To be honest, some of us know individuals who talk a lot about patriotism while they hire illegal immigrants, refuse to pay their legal employees a living wage or provide them with health insurance and fudge on their income taxes. But they truly believe that if they display patriotic symbols and constantly say good things about the country, everyone will be convinced of their sincerity.

Nevertheless, with the economy in the state it’s in, and all the other problems we are faced with, it’s disturbing to hear people on television wasting time discussing the issue of who is the most patriotic among the political candidates or writing letters to newspapers on the subject. The price of gasoline is inflicting serious problems on the average family, and the issue of patriotism is just another way politicians have of avoiding matters of real concern.

The kind of people we need in political offices are problem solvers not slogan coiners. If you happen to be broke and homeless on the streets of America it probably wouldn’t feel any differently than it would anyplace in the world. Trying to make the case that ours is the land of milk and honey is not only ridiculous, it’s also untrue, especially for the millions who are trying to support themselves and their families below the poverty line.

Most people are proud of their country when its people put their best foot forward as in the case of helping others when crises strike, but they are not proud when incidents such as occurred in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina are spotlighted across the world. Among the things most Americans are proudest of is that when we find that we have made a mistake, most of the time, we try to correct it as soon as possible. I think the saddest thing about all this patriotic talk is that it doesn’t seem to translate into taking action on the part of our veterans. Oh sure, people like to talk endlessly about how proud they are of those who serve, but you don’t hear much about what efforts they are making to see to it that our service men and women get the best health care possible or that the facilities for the military are kept in first-class condition or that they receive whatever benefits are necessary for transition to civilian life. Reports of suicide rates would suggest that the public is not as inclined to express their appreciation of the veterans’ services by action as they are by talking about it.

The economy seems to be traveling downhill fast. Hopefully, people can see beyond the upcoming election and zero in on trying to write to members of Congress to insist that they find some kind of plan to help solve the oil crisis, the housing crisis and other factors which are affecting the cost of living.

Maybe, the most patriotic thing we can do in this present situation is to help members of our communities who are hurting the most in this critical financial dilemma.

The least we can do is to try to keep hope alive.

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