To me true patriotism is not only having a deep understanding of our history and an appreciation for our freedoms. It is not only supporting our military and proudly waving the American flag. And it is not just placing your hand over your heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

True patriotism goes beyond all those easily observed thoughts and rituals and includes a deep desire to build bridges into our communities and enable every American to dream of something better.

America was founded on a deep belief that if we could just reach the shores of a far away land, we could have a new beginning and a fresh start. It was the original entrepreneurial spirit and the original pioneer sentiment.

America was built by people helping people and understanding that our neighbor was not defined by location, but by a sense of community. We did incredible things because we wanted to be better and our creative minds were encouraged to dare, to build, to just do it.

America was established as a beacon of hope for those in peril and for those seeking refuge from persecution and tyranny. We have always sought to give the underdog a helping hand and aid those who needed comfort in their hour of need.

This is what patriotism is to me. We can self-declare our love of God and country all day long, but our values are not cemented in our words, but our actions. We have not always gotten it right, but we have continued to work toward a stronger union where we can truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I cringe when I hear career politicians trying to play the patriotism card. My family has had a proud record of service., with many of them in the armed services. My father is a veteran. My uncles served in Vietnam, my Aunt Lucille was stationed in the Philippines as part of WAC (Women’s Army Corp) and I have several nephews who have recently served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

I do not need to brag about my love of country and the desire to see it remain free. I do not support communism or socialism. I embrace democracy. Our system may not be perfect, but when we work together and help one another, it is the best damn political system in the world. The only time it waivers is when we begin to adhere to rhetoric instead of truth.

My hope is this. That politicians running for office would stop with generalizations and broad claims of patriotism or accusing others of not being patriotic enough. Instead of telling everyone I am patriotic I choose to show them with my love of community, my desire to serve others and my work to help all people reach their God given potential.

That is what patriotism is to me and I will fight and even die for it. Because this experiment in democracy may be messy, but it is still worth fighting for and its people still the best group of neighbors one could ever have.

 

Robert Kellogg is a member of Gastonia City Council and a Democratic candidate for the N.C. 108th House District.