The True Patriot 

 

          “Oh my name it is nothin’
          My age it means less
          The country I come from
          Is called the Midwest
          I’s taught and brought up there
          The laws to abide
          And that land that I live in
          Has God on its side.”
          --Bob Dylan

 

          In a nationally televised GOP debate on CNN, November 22 covering the overarching theme
          of “National Security,” the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked presidential candidate Rick Santorum if he
          would support ethnic and religious profiling. Santorum replied: “The folks who are most likely to be
          committing these crimes, obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at. Absolutely.”

          Santorum justified this under the so-called “Patriot Act.”

          I want to distinguish between two terms that are often used interchangeably, but in actuality, while
          connected in some ways, are unique and distinct: the terms are “Patriot” and “Nationalist” with their
          corresponding concepts being “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic.”

          My copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines a “Patriot” as:

          1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests, and
          2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, [and here is the important difference]
          especially of individual rights against presumed interference by the government. That is the
          definition of a “Patriot.”

           A “Nationalist,” according to my dictionary is 1. a person who has devotion and loyalty to one’s
           own nation, and 2. a person has excessive patriotism or chauvinism, which is a zealous and
           aggressive patriotism or enthusiasm for military glory, a biased devotion to any group, attitude,
           or cause. This is sometimes called “Jingoism.”

          The United States is a beautiful and noble concept, a vibrant idea, a vital and enduring vision, a
          process and progression toward, but we have not yet attained, not yet reached that concept, that
          idea, that vision. We are, rather, a work in process.

          And this is possibly what separates the Patriot from the Nationalist, for the Patriot understands
          and witnesses the divide or the gap between the reality and the promise and the potential. The
          Nationalist, on the other hand, is often not aware that a gap even exists between the potential and
          the reality.

          “Oh the history books tell it
          They tell it so well
          The cavalries charged
          The Indians fell
          The cavalries charged
          The Indians died
          Oh the country was young
          With God on its side.”
         
 --Bob Dylan

          I interpret a true Patriot as one who, indeed, loves her or his country, but also one who sees the
          way things are, and one who works for change to make things better.

          A Patriot also views other countries with respect and admiration, as valued members of an
          interconnected and interdependent global community.

          My vision of a Patriot is one who embraces John F. Kennedy’s challenge by “ask[ing] not what
          your country can do for you” but rather “ask[ing] what you can do for your country.”

          “Imagine no possessions,
          I wonder if you can,
          No need for greed or hunger,
          A brotherhood of man [and woman]
          Imagine all the people
          Sharing all the world…”
         
 --John Lennon

          However, the language or the terminology has somehow been distorted and skewed.

           Keeping these distinctions I outlined previously in mind, the so-called “Patriot Act” is, in fact,
           the “Nationalist Act” or even the  “Chauvinist Act” or the “Jingoist Act.” The current Patriot Act
           has as much to do with Patriots as the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” has to do with
           defending marriage rights. All these acts are punitive and stand in stark contrast to their
           respective titles.

           In addition, when the United States government sends CIA operatives to destabilize and
           overthrow other governments, our leaders call them “freedom fighters” or “Intelligence
           Officers.” When other countries do the same, our leaders call them—fill in the blank.

           When concerned U.S. citizens rally for peace and advocate for diplomatic solutions to conflict,
           we are often labeled as   “traitors,” “bums,” “effete snobs,” and “cowards.” When others march
           to illegal, unjustified, or premature wars, they are called “patriots” and “defenders of democracy.”

          “He’s five feet two and he’s six feet four
          He fights with missiles and with spears
          He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17
          He’s been a soldier for a thousand years…
          He’s the universal soldier and he really is to blame
          His orders come from far away no more
          They come from him, and you, and me
          And brothers can’t you see
          This is not the way we put an end to war.”
         
 --Buffy Sainte-Marie

           During the Vietnam War era, those of us who challenged the war were met with signs
           and bumper stickers demanding: “AMERICA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!”

          Our response was “AMERICA, CHANGE IT OR LOSE IT!”

          “Oh the First World War, boys
          It closed out its fate
          The reason for fighting
          I never got straight
          But I learned to accept it
          And accept it with pride
          For you don’t count the dead
          When God’s on your side.”
         
--Bob Dylan

          A Patriot, yes indeed, sees things the way they are and tries to make them better, for denial  
         
of liberty comes in many forms.

          Whenever the so-called “Patriots Act” profiles individuals on their appearance, whenever people
           are detained and their constitutional rights are denied, and whenever any of our liberties are
           restricted, we must all speak out against the injustice.

          Whenever states like Arizona pass bias-based laws that result in racial profiling and when they
           eliminate multicultural studies programs, liberty is denied and we must all speak out against the

           injustice.

          Whenever communities like New York City and Murfreesboro, Tennessee promote intolerance
           by obstructing the installation of Islamic Centers, and when states like Oklahoma pass bogus
           and hate-inspired laws by wide margins to prevent judges from invoking Sharia law in court cases,
           liberty is denied and we must all speak out against the injustice.

          Whenever anyone of any social identity is targeted for hate-motivated attack, bullying, and cyber
           bullying, harassment, and violence, liberty is denied and we must all speak out against the
           injustice. For in the final analysis, whenever anyone is diminished, we are all demeaned, and the
           possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to
           challenge, to question, and to act.

           We all now have a special opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to serve as social commentators,
           as critics, exposing and highlighting the wide-scale inequities of all kinds that saturate and engulf
           our environment, and to challenge the culture to move forever forward and to grow.

 
 

 

                                                                                                                                                               Warren J. Blumenfeld