I love Independence Day. It is one of my favorite “holidays” and it has been for as long as I can remember. I love it because, for one day out of the year, we remind our fellow Americans how great and glorious our history and our nation really is.

But I do hate the sensationalism around it. Each year, especially as social media presence has expanded, we see the token “It’s Independence Day, not 4th of July” posts coupled with the rants about how broken America is and why we should not praise that as our country celebrates yet another birthday – something many countries around the world don’t get to do for as long as we have. We have contests over who can don the most patriotic outfit or prepare the most American dish. My beef has always been so many people’s inability to recognize our history on the other 364 days of the year, but I digress.

The flag waving, the colorful desserts and BBQs, the parades – there is no doubt that July 4th is often lost on many, but it does give us an opportunity to openly discuss the idea of “patriotism” and consider the idea that perhaps what we considered ‘patriotism’ for so long is not really patriotism at all. Or at least not the best form of it.

Looking back over the last 100 years, patriotism looks a lot like yellow ribbons on trees, flags on every home, children standing for The Pledge, an unwavering support for our troops, a grand respect for the Oval Office regardless of political party, a trust in Congress, a silence about “God” in government, and so much more. And over that 100 years, the idea of patriotism has changed completely…and does so what seems like every day.  

By definition, ‘patriotism’ is considered a ‘vigorous support for one’s country.’ Could you succinctly tell someone what that means?

Most of us can tell others what is it not. We, as Americans,  have moved to a place in time where dissenters are unpatriotic, criticizers are anti-American, anti-war activists are the devil, Constitutionalists are radical, questioning the intentions of our government has become one of the most divisive things discussed, and Heaven help the atheists who want God out of every corner of government. But I would argue these people are the most patriotic of all.

I read a column Saturday morning which said “Patriotism is the cornucopia of individualism.” There is so much truth to that statement that you would assume it needs no explanation. Individualism, self-reliance, and independence are the very facets of freedom on which this nation was founded. What many forget, however, is that those things are not one-dimensional.

Is it bad that someone speaks terrible truths about America during war times, denigrates those who serve, and blames the Commander in Chief for bloodshed? To you, maybe, but patriotism is not speaking only positively, it is recognizing that there is room for discussion about the negative, too. Constructively, of course.

Is it unpatriotic to seek to remove “God” from our money, our classrooms, and our courthouses? To you, yes, but it is more unpatriotic to silence the minority in favor of removal.

Is it wrong that a child is told at home that they do not have to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? Maybe, but patriotism is not reciting The Pledge. It’s recognizing that you do have the choice of whether or not to recite it.

You will face no penalties for these “opposing” positions, your rights will not be infringed, and the only court you will be tried in is the one of public opinion. 

Patriotism in 2017 is awareness. It is engagement and involvement. It is an understanding of our foundations, the original intentions, and the dire need for those to be carried forward some 241 years later. More importantly, patriotism is the recognition of differences and collaboration despite those differences.

Have we strayed from our foundations? Yes. Do we have a great deal of fixing to do? Absolutely. Those are sentiments all Americans will share. But we have a large population of people who understand there are problems and are willing to put themselves out there to discuss it, to fix it, and to change the path. A committed group aware that complacency and silence led us to where we are and it has to stop now. What’s more patriotic than someone invested in the future of their homeland?

When the Declaration of Independence was written and signed, the political arena was a dangerous place to be. Those leading the charge lived in fear, lost more than they gained, and battled loudly and proudly to have their ideologies recognized. Politics was not a glamorous thing, only a sacrifice and a risk. We seem to have taken it to the extreme on the other end of the spectrum as we continue to glorify our elected leaders, but at least we all recognize the safety we have here in the United States to partake in politics at all levels. Regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, no matter how wrong our neighbor thinks we are, we have a voice…and those who choose to use it (and, of course, those who choose to defend it) are the real patriots.


“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” – Edward R. Murrow

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Jessica Szilagyi is statewide contributor for All On Georgia and Market Manager for Southeast Georgia. Her main focus with All On Georgia is state and local politics as well as agriculture. She’s served as a policy analyst at the State Capitol and as a campaign manager in political races across the state.

She writes for GeorgiaPol.com and has two blogs of her own: ‘The Perspicacious Conservative’, a political blog, and ‘Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers’, a blog on moving from Atlanta to rural Georgia. Jessica is also a contributor for Fox5 Atlanta’s ‘Like it Or Not.’

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