Patriotism is "love and devotion to one's country" as defined by the 3rd Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary. As we have unfortunately learned over time, politicians and pundits alike choose to use this term to draw distinction between their brand of Patriotism and the juxtaposed traitorousness. One person's Patriot is another's traitor, and vice versa. This rhetorical convenience belies the Greek origins of patrios and pater, meaning 'of one's father' and 'father', respectively, and is a grave departure from 'love and devotion of one's country'.
So, we are left with our perception of some interpretation by the particular speaker, often not coming to our own particular, thoughtful interpretation. This is not unusual in the mix of politics, media and language. Nonetheless it is nothing short of dangerous given the volatile world in which we live...that certain individuals would misuse a word, particularly vague by definition. This word Patriotism becomes a stick of dynamic, supercharged, rhetorical dynamite. Wars and conflicts have been started and fought, and many millions of lives lost over this and less.
Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.
George William Curtis
Patriotism is an ephemeral motive that scarcely ever outlasts the particular threat to society that aroused it.
The included photograph was taken on Memorial Day from the summit of the Chattanooga National Cemetery during my annual pilgrimage with my friend Kevin. This historic cemetery, Tennessee's largest, was established following the Civil War Battle of Missionary Ridge by Union General George Thomas. It is home to over 37,000 soldiers whose wars span the history of this country, from the American Revolution to the current Iraqi and Afghani conflicts. There are a substantial number of unmarked gravestones of unknown Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate. It is home even to a number of German POWs. As a HS teenager we would routinely escape the rigors of growing up and drive the meandering roads that lead to this flag-poled summit, smoking our cigarettes and cannabis, contemplating the universe and other philosophical pursuits. It was this particular location where my friend, Jack, and I decided to join the military...he the Army and I the Coast Guard. Needless to say this cemetery, at least on the surface, is a quiet place. Nonetheless, the numerous, perfect rows of markers, occasionally broken by monuments, speak so loudly about the horrors of war.
I will most likely be standing atop this flagged summit once again this upcoming Memorial Day. I am drawn to this place on Memorial day for the conversations with veterans and the contemplation of life's complexities. As usual I expect to be filled with a deep sadness over the enormous loss of precious life...lives of women, men and children, military and civilian...folks just like you and me with families and dreams who, more often than not, find themselves caught up in whirlwinds of violence perpetrated by the powerful and wealthy elite. This next visit I will think about a "new patriotism". It is a patriotism ripe with the deep courage of conviction to create peace, and the ever present need to speak to truth, to not take any life lightly, to create social and political structures that first and foremost acknowledge our inherent need for each other....to love immensely as if it matters, and as if there is no tomorrow. War is hell...Love can and is the only thing that will conquer war.
Peace and blessings