A Wednesday letter writer said that people who show disrespect for our country should leave. The writer singled out an Olympic athlete for protesting, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the national anthem and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar for a tirade against the United States.
What the writer doesn’t realize is that some of us who love our country feel an obligation to try to correct some of our problems and make our country better. Doing that may require bold gestures and actions. In taking a knee, Kaepernick was protesting against police brutality. He asked, “Isn’t this lethal racism every American’s problem, and aren’t we letting down our flag by not fulfilling its promise?”
Waving the American flag is not necessarily patriotic. Were the flag wavers at the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol patriots?
I’m bothered by those who link patriotism with saying the Pledge of Allegiance, standing and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and deifying the American flag. These are examples of symbolic patriotism. What we need more of is substantive patriotism to improve our country in tangible ways. This could include serving on local school boards, volunteering at soup kitchens for the homeless, staying informed on issues and voting.
Using our First Amendment right to criticize our government in the hope of improving it is patriotic and important. Symbolic patriotism is easy, and often mindless; substantive patriotism is what can make a country great.