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Hold on America!!! Have we forgotten the meaning of patriotism?

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By: TRACEY JAGNEAUX

Patriotism.
Defined it means love or devotion to one’s country.
Through all of the fire storm that has erupted in the last few days about kneeling for the National Anthem and the endless debate about freedom of speech vs. disrespecting the men and women who fought for this country, one word has truly been lost in the mindless rhetoric that has come down from EVERY corner of this great land. That word is patriotism.
Over 241 years ago the founders of this country came together in the hopes of creating a new nation where all men are created equal; a new nation where, despite our differences of opinion, we can agree what is best for all who dwell within its boundaries.
Now, I am not so naïve to believe that all men (and for that matter women) were considered (or even treated) equally in this country for a long time. It took a number of brave men and women to fight for the rights that were, even though stated, not allowed for almost 200 years. But, the concept of equality was so important to those founders that it was written down and is still today THE standard that we all strive for.
What we, as a country, have failed to remember is that the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem are not just mere symbols that represent a country. Instead, collectively THEY ARE our country. They represent what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves as individuals. They represent our commitment to this nation that no matter how much we disagree or disapprove of what happens around us, WE are UNITED in our fight to make sure that every individual has the same freedoms.
Do individuals have the right to protest injustices in this great country of ours? The answer is MOST DEFINITELY YES!! That right is guaranteed to every citizen of this nation. It is the granite foundation of the Constitution of the United States.
Listen, America is not a perfect nation. Even with us being the standard by which all other nations on this planet strive for, this country is flawed. Remember, we are governed by man, and man is flawed. (Man is a collective term for mankind, it is not a dismissal of women). However, we are the greatest country on Earth because we have and are still making it work despite our individual differences.
By sitting for the National Anthem and the presentation of the Colors, the perception becomes that you do not respect what those entities represent. And, what they represent is that even though we may disagree as to how this country goes forward or how much we fight the daily battle of injustice, WE as a nation are UNITED together in keeping this country the greatest on Earth.
One of the things that has been said throughout this whole controversy is that those who are protesting by kneeling during the National Anthem are as patriotic as anyone else in this country. I beg to differ. Do I believe that those protesting have the right to protest? Yes, I know unequivocally they do. It is guaranteed to them by the First Amendment. Do I believe that they are American citizens? No question about it, they are. They have utilized the rights given to them.
But to me, those are two separate issues. Remember, to be patriotic, according to the definition, one most love or show devotion to this country. How is choosing to not be a willing participant when the playing of the National Anthem occurs anywhere near the definition of being patriotic? Would those individuals still not participate if the Pledge of Allegiance was recited instead? One cannot not merely sip out of the cup of the freedom bestowed upon them and not fully drink in the commitment of UNITY that this amazing country was founded on.
I have heard people saying that they love this country so much, that they are willing to protest in such a manner to make sure that their cause is heard and seen. Well, if that were the case, then the love for country must also be the ability to have enough respect for those who feel that this is not the way to get your message across. If you want to be heard, do not alienate half (or more) of the country.
Choosing to protest by not standing and participating in the National Anthem is not the answer on how to make people aware of your cause. There are so many more constructive ways to gain awareness of one’s campaign against injustice. In today’s world, social media dominates our everyday lives. There are plenty of avenues or platforms that can be utilized to bring forth your message.
Another issue that has come up is the question of respecting the men and women who serve in the military. Do they disrespect the men and women in uniform? I think that is something only the brave men and women that protect our freedoms on a daily basis can answer. I am in no position to answer that question. What I do know is that my dad served in the Air Force, and both grandfathers were part of the military (one in the Army and the other in the Navy). If they were alive today, I truly believe that as individuals they would not personally feel disrespected, but would however feel that the country itself was not being shown the respect it deserved.
Divisiveness in all forms should never be tolerated, whether it comes in speech, actions or symbols. Just as words can be divisive, so can actions. Let us not get caught up in the back and forth of divisiveness. Instead, let us embrace the fact that individuals with such differing backgrounds and experiences can be united in the idea that gave birth to country, the idea that all persons have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
What is happening right now, is that countries around the world are looking at us and either hanging their head in shame or laughing maniacally. Our allies have always looked to us as the beacon of unity and we are not showing that right now. Our enemies, inside and outside this country, are jumping for joy, for they know a divided America is ripe for destruction. The only way that we do not hold on to the fabric of this nation is to tear it apart at the seams.
If one thinks this country has not provided you with enough that you refuse to show a small amount of patriotism by respecting the unity that led to the founding of THE GREATEST country in the world, then maybe it is time that you move on and find the utopia that you desire. Because, I will tell you, creating a utopian society is hard work and will take every ounce of unity that we as a country can muster. Just one man’s opinion.

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