By Mosiah Olvera
When I look back in history and then look at our current day today, I can't help but wonder, "Where are the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Hamiltons, Franklins, Adams and Lincolns of our day?" Where are the people who loved their country enough to sacrifice their self interest and their lives to lead and direct our country to have a sustainable future? When I look at the state of our country, I am saddened, and I ask myself, where has patriotism gone?
As a country we are starting to value fake patriotism rather than valuing true patriotism. We think we are seeking gold but we settle for fool's gold. We see people waving an American flag or wearing a t-shirt with the American flag emblazoned on their chest, and we believe that person is patriotic. If patriotism is simply standing up for the national anthem and blowing fireworks on the Fourth of July, then that is too easy and shallow. That is not true patriotism. It is fool's gold.
True patriotism is having a devotion to one's country and a vigorous support for one's country. Celebrating the 4th of July or standing for the National Anthem may be an expression of one's devotion to our country, but today, it seems to be the measuring test to determine if one is patriotic. Whether one stands for the National Anthem or not makes a poor test to authenticate patriotism because it demands very little. Anyone could stand for our National Anthem, and we would view them as patriotic. I will show you that this is not true patriotism and that it leads us to accept fake patriotism as if it had the value of true patriotism. I will also outline what true patriotism is and what our test to authenticate it should be. The state of our nation can change if we start valuing real patriotism rather than fake patriotism.
Real patriotism for America is being devoted to our country. Being devoted to our country means we are devoted to honoring our Constitution and respect the institutions in place that protect our Constitution. It also means serving our country and voting for the good of our country.
Patriotism is more than flag-waving and fireworks. It is how we respond to public issues. If we ask only, “What’s in this proposal for me?—What do I get out of it?”—we are not patriotic and we are not good citizens. But if we ask, “Is this right? is it good for the … people? would it preserve and strengthen our freedom?”—then we deserve to stand in the company of [great patriots]. Patriotism is trying always to give more to the Nation than we receive. It is selfless service. (Ezra Taft Benson)
We honor the Constitution by upholding and defending all of our rights. All of them. Even when we don't like how they are used. An example would be flag burning or not standing for the national anthem. A real patriot would recognize that it is people's right to protest peacefully. A true patriot would defend people's right to protest even if it was disrespectful to the flag. Why? Because if an opponent’s right to protest peacefully is denied because it is disrespectful, then the bar would no longer be whether it is peaceful. The standard now would be whether the protest did not cause offense to an opposing party. Because the flag represents the freedom and the liberty we have then we must respect people's liberty to protest peacefully. That includes flag burning or not standing for the national anthem. Our love and devotion for the flag does not stem from standing for the national anthem. Our love for the flag stems from the rights and freedoms we enjoy. If flag burning or not standing for the anthem is no longer allowed, then what does our flag stand for?
A true patriot respects and honors the institutions and processes that we have in place. A true patriot honors the outcome of an election. A true patriot puts the peaceful transition of power above their own party's interests. A true patriot recognizes that the survival of our nation will not depend on the election of a certain candidate but on whether there are peaceful transitions of power and that people can vote in an election and have their votes counted. George Washington was so certain of this principle that he did not run for a third term. He was and is viewed as the savior of our nation during the Revolutionary War. The thought that another person could lead and guide our newborn country was laughable to many people back then. George Washington seemed like the only one who could be trusted with power. He intended to prove to those people wrong.
George Washington did not run for a third term because he wanted to set an example that power should not be permanently held by one individual. He wanted the nation to rely on a system of government rather than relying on a specific person governing. Washington belonged to a faction which were the Federalists and even when his political rival, Jefferson, would have a chance at winning the Presidency, he gave up his power and trusted in the political system the Constitution dictated. We must trust in our elections. We must trust in the constitutional system that is in place even if our party loses. We cannot sacrifice or attack the integrity of an election just because our party lost. Instead, we should focus on making sure everyone who is eligible gets to vote because, in that same stroke, we protect our own ability to vote and win the next election.
In order to honor and uphold the Constitution, we must respect and honor our courts and the rulings they give. Even if we don't like them or are unhappy with the outcomes. The courts are a check to the other branches of government including the States. The unique aspect of the courts is that they have no army or enforcement agency to enforce their rulings. They are entirely dependent on executives like the President and other branches of government to enforce their rulings. In other words, they need us to uphold their rulings or else they are irrelevant and just a group of people issuing their opinion. We need the referee in the games even if we don't like that they call fouls against us. Imagine a basketball game without referees. Utter chaos. Without that check our constitutional system would be in chaos. We cannot politicize the selection of judges. We need judges who will uphold and defend all of our rights and not just the ones they agree with. We don't need judges who interpret the Constitution in a specific way. We need judges who will judge in a way respectful of the Constitution and be fair in their rulings. We need judges that will be wise, not political. We need judges who will put the country before politics. A true patriot would recognize the importance of having impartial judges.
I have recently become a Citizen of The United States. I grew up here and went to school here and as I studied, I came across America’s flaws, and the consequences those flaws have today. But I still decided to become a citizen. It was a dream come true. I am very aware of our shortcomings, but it does not make me love my country any less. Seeing our flaws makes me want to do better and improve our country. Seeing our mistakes makes me want to learn from them so my generation and future generations do not repeat those mistakes.Yet I need to study our flaws in order to know how to improve. I need to be aware of the nature of the problems we face. Talking about our mistakes and flaws does not mean we hate our country.
On the contrary, if we love our country we must talk about our mistakes and shortcomings so that we may improve our country. Loving our country but not wanting to hear about the pain and suffering that our fellow citizens are going through means one does not really love their country or their fellow countrymen. It is not ungrateful for us as citizens to complain and to protest and to want to change things in our government. Our government is designed to change. It is designed to allow dissent. We need to just respect people and simply disagree and leave it at that.
There are those who feel that they cannot celebrate the Fourth of July because injustice still exists in our system today. I wish to say to them that there is still a lot of good to celebrate. It is a right to not celebrate and to protest injustice, even on special days like Fourth of July. I wish to point out that while we advocate for the improvement of our nation, we cannot forget that we must look and recognize the positive things in our system. Even though when our nation was founded it was designed to exclude blacks, women, and immigrants and included all manner of injustice, our founders put on paper the idea that all men are created equal. The idea that people had inalienable rights and that people should have a government, not to grant those rights, but to protect those rights. A better union. This idea has grown to give rights to blacks, rights to women, and rights to immigrants. If this idea had never been written, thought of, or talked about, then I would not be here. Many of you would not. We have come a long way. Yes, there is still a long way to go, but love your country enough to not forget that the reason we can be on the path to improvement is because of the ideas this nation was founded on even if they didn’t include you. I am grateful that they started the ideas and implemented the birth of the ideas.
The consequences of having settled for fool’s gold is apparent in our politics. Politicians are able to showboat what we think patriotism is rather than do their duty and let their actions speak for themselves. With a few words and a bit of acting a politician can stand for the anthem and say the words "God bless America" and still get away with damaging our republic. It is time for the Jeffersons, Hamiltons, Washingtons, and Madisons to really stand up for our republic and not to stand for their own self interest. To save our country, we need real patriotism, not fool’s gold.