Author: Nancy Wade
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines patriotism as: Love for or devotion to one’s country.
My Dad, like thousands of others in his generation, honorably served in the military during World War II. He spent four years in France, helping to build airfields. And during my childhood, he would frequently reminisce about those years, about the friendships he made, the lessons he learned, the experiences he had. His years in service to his country helped to shape the man he became; he was disciplined, committed to his family and his profession, and wholly devoted to his country.
When I was a child, Dad was an active member of the Rotary Club and every summer, we would attend a picnic and a parade where the American flag waved freely and we all wore its colors: red, white and blue. It never occurred to any of us to question devotion to country. Patriotism was a strong thread that ran through our lives; it showed us who to be.
As a young person, I learned that the United States of America was a beacon of hope for the citizens of the world. I was proud that the U.S. of A. was such an excellent example of democracy in action. My generation carried on the tradition of patriotism. We loved and were devoted to our country. When I sang in school choirs, more often than not, the song God Bless America was included in the program.
In school, I learned about the true patriots who founded our country, the ideals they expressed, the “perfect union” they formed. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among others, believed in equality for all, liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly.
I believe that, as Americans, we take these freedoms for granted. And while I haven’t always agreed with my government’s decisions, I have taken comfort in the fact that – more or less – we have a representative form of government that, most of the time, works for the majority of its citizens.
Today is Flag Day, a day when we honor the symbol or our democracy. But when I think about all the problems our country is facing: a broken health care system, the increasingly dire situation of the unhoused, the murder of children in school, the disrespect and clashing among our citizens, the Fentanyl crisis, fear for our safety, inflation, rising gas prices . . . .
Well, it just seems like too much to bear.
And I wonder what the founders of our country – those proud idealists – would think of the many serious problems we are facing. What solutions would they suggest?
For the first time in my adult life, I am questioning the validity of the construct of patriotism. I wonder if my allegiance to America requires me to turn a blind eye to its faults and failings. When workable solutions to our problems seem out of reach, how to we focus our attention on what we can do to affect change?
One bright glimmer of hope for me is our church. It is a place where we can openly discuss our country’s challenges, where we can criticize and mourn our government’s decisions, and where we can work together to implement small but sustainable change. Think about our various ministries: we join together to talk about racial justice, about climate action, about gun control, and other important topics. My skepticism and cynicism about our country are tempered somewhat by the fact that I am part of a community which cares enough to ask difficult questions, to work together to find answers, and which lifts a candle of hope as we walk together in these difficult times. And for that, I am grateful.
God of the universe: Comfort us as we contemplate the problems we face in our weary world. Help us to recognize the importance of community as we work together, one step at a time, to envision and create a more peaceful country. Amen