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Time to adopt new version of patriotism

There are sure a number of American flags flying around here lately.

Now don’t get me wrong. When our founding fathers chose the symbol of white stars in a field of blue to honor each state, alternating red and blue lines for each of the original colonies, they gave us an emblem rightly named “Old Glory,” and it was one under which I proudly served in World War II.



And when a group of psychopaths strike at us, I’m proud to see how our nation of diverse political and religious beliefs suddenly coalesces into a determined group of citizens that says in no uncertain terms: “We will not be cowed, and we truly are one people.” And certainly flying Old Glory is the great symbol of that solidity.




However, just saluting the flag and blindly following our leaders, no matter what course they take, just doesn’t get it. In fact, it’s plain bad patriotism. And when we do, we as a nation are in bad, bad shape.

Let me give an example: I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school we had to read Edward Everett Hale’s “The Man Without a Country,” the last line of which was “My country, may she ever be in the right, but my country, right or wrong.” This motto was drilled into us, and we believed it. Today we know it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Laws and decisions for action are made, not by our “country,” but by a series of men and women who are elected or appointed to public office. Obviously, legislators and public servants change with political winds and attrition. Sometimes they make wise decisions, and sometimes their decisions are disastrous.

A republic demands that its citizens be involved in the governing process, which we do by voting, writing letters, making phone calls or sending emails, thereby letting our public officials know when and how we agree or disagree with their actions. Most important, it’s vital that we do not agree with all their actions, especially when we believe those actions might jeopardize rather than help our nation. This is especially true during times of warfare or crises such as our present attempt to punish and stop terrorism.

I’m not taking any position for or against our government’s present policies in this article. I’m much more concerned with the way in which many of us are blindly saying: “Whatever Washington wants right now, Washington gets.” More planes, more munitions, more troops, more civilian deaths, more worldwide antagonism directed against our actions, giving up some of our own rights and liberties – all are being accepted as the price we’re willing to pay (or exact) in our attempt to smash terrorism.

Certainly, terrorism must be smashed. Blindly accepting the policies of our leaders, however, is not, and never must be, our course as a free people.

I am proposing a new definition of patriotism, over and above the flying of flags and supporting those terribly brave men and women who are putting their lives on the line at the request of our government. I’m suggesting that true patriotism consists of involvement, of voting, of safeguarding the rights and liberties of all of us and of people everywhere as we can, of questioning, of communicating. When you and I as individuals consider and work for the happiness and well-being of our fellows, when we question governmental actions which we truly believe harm rather than help us and our cause, when we vote and participate rather than blindly trust our government, we’re being patriots. And unless we’re taking such actions, we’re no better than those who willingly lose their liberty in return for having the people in power (legally or illegally installed) do their thinking for them.

Otto Haueisen, an investments professional in Nevada City, writes a monthly column.


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