According to the Oxford Dictionary, a patriot is someone who “is devoted to and ready to support or defend his or her country.”
What does this mean to a country torn by something as horrific as the events of Sept. 11, 2001?
Shortly after the attacks, anyone driving on any public road could not help but be bombarded by the dancing lights on every marquee of every business in sight that flash slogans in favor of American patriotism and American ideology.
Without fail, the next screen inevitably displayed some rock bottom sale in the name of patriotism. Beautiful, is it not? The street corners and windows of shops were decorated with red, white and blue on every item imaginable.
Hats, shirts, flags, shoes, bumper stickers, bags and any other item that held the ability to be painted with our colors, or any sort of slogan in the name of support of those in New York, Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania, hung in stores everywhere.
One could probably even find a cocker spaniel spray-painted with Uncle Sam on its side without much of a struggle. Again, it is beautiful, no? This was America’s response to the most gruesome tragedy of recent history to hit its soil. Because this is the biggest call for patriotism we have ever experienced, our response must be patriotism at its finest, correct?
Ask most Americans; this is what they would define as patriotism at such a pivotal point in history. Most would not blink an eye at the exploitation of such a catastrophe simply because it is what we, as Americans, expect and even embrace as patriotism.
We drive by the billboards with a contented look and a smile because it is satisfying for us to see everyone on the same side; we are all united. This feeling is enough for us. We do not question it; we do not think twice. We do not realize that this is not true patriotism; this is capitalism at its best.
Businesses were cashing in on America’s state simply to get ahead. They were reaping profits on something as hideous as the deaths of thousands of people. They were hopping on the back of Uncle Sam until America was tired of being what we deem patriotic. They were seizing the situation and manipulating it just to spin a profit; once again, capitalism at its finest.
If this capitalism is what most of us accept as patriotism, then what is true patriotism?
True patriotism involves congregation and unity for no other reason than to be together to support one’s country.
There is no gain, save the intrinsic reward everyone involved will hold and cherish that comes with the overwhelming feeling of unity achieved by a candlelight vigil wrapped around a flag drawn and colored by a child.
It is a neighborhood coming together and donating money not for a tax write-off but simply out of an inexplicable feeling of responsibility for one’s countrymen. It is a family going through their closets and cupboards and sending whatever they can to the families of the lost, and not the stuff they will never eat or use, but the materials that are useful to them and others.
One year later, there is a satisfying amount of this going on. Unfortunately, one-track capitalists continue to peddle their brand of patriotism, but most have hopped off the bandwagon.
For the most part, true patriotism is alive and thriving. People were able to walk down the street this past Sept. 11 and feel full of the beauty that is unity and true patriotism. They can take in the sight of their neighbors praying around a candle with no thought apart from helping those who were hurt from the attacks. They do not want to gain anything material; they do not want to “cash in;” they simply want to help their brothers and sisters the best way they know how. This is true patriotism in a time such as the one we are presently caught up in, and this is beautiful.