What is patriotism?
I’m playing with words again, but, hey, that’s what being a writer is about. And now, with another Fourth of July here, the concept of patriotism comes front and center.
By definition, ‘patriotism’ means vigorous support for one’s country. And while I’m not one for marching in a parade brandishing guns, certainly not one for blind support of our leaders when I think they are wrong, I do like to celebrate this land that I love on the Fourth of July. For a Bostonian, born and bred like me, that means listening to the annual Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade. I adored our late, great conductor, Arthur Fiedler, who was such a unique presence with his white hair and mustache, his musicality and his flair for humor. Keith Lockhart is conducting now, and many of the musical choices have grown younger to fit the celebrants, but three staples remain. One is John Philip Sousa’s march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” during which a huge American flag unfurls behind the orchestra, down the back wall of the Hatch Shell. Another is Tchaikovsky’s iconic “1812 Overture,” replete with cannon fire along the Charles, bell-ringing in every nearby church belfry, and the kickoff of a spectacular fireworks show. The third is the patriotic singalong.
There’s that word again, patriotic. We don’t usually parse the lyrics of songs, but consider these images.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain …
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam …
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
This land was made for you and me.
I get goose bumps even typing these words. America is beautiful, and respecting her beauty – preserving it – is our responsibility as Americans. It’s like the human body. You don’t bathe, you smell. You eat the wrong food, you get sick.
Same with the environment. If we don’t take care of it, it goes bad. I don’t want that. I have nine grandchildren, and I want our air clean and our land bright for not only them, but for their children and grandchildren, as well. And it is a global issue. Common sense says that. Those who would deny it are burying their heads in the sand – which, BTW, is a phrase that comes from the habit ostriches have of hiding their faces when predators approach.
That, my friends, is the way of a coward. It takes courage to stand up for what is right.
And that is what patriotism means to me. It means making the courageous decision. It means seeing the whole picture of what American is and does. It isn’t about one person or one group or one set of jobs, and it sure isn’t about politics or ego. It’s about ensuring a healthy future for all Americans.
Let’s pray for that, this Fourth of July 2017.