Patriotism — A Better “ism”
Today we are told that our country is split in half and someone or something has to bring us together again. A leading politician recently stated that an entire generation of Americans has come of age and has never seen American prosperity!
How can that be when we all live in the most privileged of times and in the most prosperous nation of all. Only 43 % of the nations in the world are free. The US poverty line begins 31 times above the global average. Last month, over 100,000 people crossed our borders at great risk to experience our prosperity. Anyone can cross our borders and go from rags to riches like the founders of Google, Amazon, and many others. They have that chance because our capitalistic system is the only one where the building blocks of an economy are owned by individuals and not by the state.
I was born between WW1 And WW11 and everywhere I turned I saw patriotism. In 1918 my Jewish-German,American father enlisted in the Army at age 16 to follow his brother who joined the Navy a year before. Uncle Jim, amCatholic- Irish, American, got his purple heart in a bloody trench in France, and Uncle Louiealso fought alongside the Allied Nations in the Italian Army. Years later, when he came to America, he married my very Jewish Aunt Ann who became the best cook of Italian food.
When Pearl Harbor hit early Sunday morning in December of 1941, these same men ran down to the New York City recruiting station to join up. My West Point cousin died Commanding a PT Boat in the Pacific, and 10 years later my 6’ 2”, California surfer cousin was the only Marine in his platoon not killed or wounded ina battle in Korea. A year later I took my turn on the Korean DMZ.
In 2014, I joined Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion because of its historical significance and its many educational activities.The American Legion was formed over a 100 years ago to assist the thousands of US soldiers who returned from World War1. Many of these men were wounded both physically or mentally. To fulfill its mission, the American Legion created four major programs or PILLARS with the hope that future wars would be avoided. These programs were: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation under which the Veterans Administration and the GI Bill for advanced education were created. The second was National Security where the American Legion partners with Congress and the Pentagon to maintain a strong military force. The third was the Americanism pillar, which consists of programs such as the Oratorical Contest, that keeps our Constitution alive in the hearts and minds of young people; Boys and Girls State, which teaches civics to young people at a historic site. Here they participate in simulated city, county, and state governments and learn the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being an American citizen. The last of the four pillars was Children and Youth, which creates healthy and wholesome programs for younger children. In addition, at every monthly meeting throughout the nation, local high school ROTC students, policemen, firemen, and ‘first-responders’ are honored by our members.
Today I see the average person driven by emotion, or better yet, by their feelings. Science, mathematics and economics, and even logic appear to have been replaced by “feelings.” Just listen to Judge Judy when she tells a litigant, “I don’t care how you feel; it’s the law.” The dictionary defines ‘patriotism’ as a “love for or devotion to one’s country.” I suggest that Patriotism is the ultimate in “feelings. Is it National Unity as in “UNITED WE STAND”, or a belief in religion? Or perhaps it is a belief in American exceptionalism? Most Americans believe in American exceptionalism because hundreds of thousands of Americans of every race, religion, and ethnic background travel to other countries to defend freedom. But it is not just our armies that do good for humanity. There is also our Peace Corps which has helped countless numbers of people around the world that are in need. Furthermore let’s note how American companies developed the covid 19 vaccine in record time and then supplied the vaccine to so many countries.
Yes, today it is true that too many Americans are unaware of America’s story, and it is also true that something has gotten out of control with capitalism that needs to be fixed. But do you know that our founders actually thought of that by forming our Government as a Republic- because a Republic requires constant maintenance by the people. But we have to be careful that we fix it properly and not try to replace it with some form of socialism that benefits only the state and a very few privileged people.
We should use “Patriotism” as the fuel that propels a nationwide grassroots movement, and propose that the engine to use that fuel should be the American Legion's 12,000 local posts working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.