For far too long this presidential political year the question of what makes an American – and a candidate - a “true” patriot has been bandied about from the national press to local forums.
As I listened to the arguments that patriotism was based on the displaying of American flag lapel pins and flags hanging off houses, I knew that something was wrong with this line of reasoning.
I began to vaguely remember a Sunday-school story about a poor widow sneaking into the temple to make an offering of a few pennies that she could ill-afford to donate and then quietly leaving. At the same time a rich man marched into the temple, probably accompanied by his retinue and the clanging of cymbals, to make a large donation and to make sure that everyone within earshot knew he was making the donation.
The whole moral of the story had to do with who was more blessed – the poor woman who quietly gave what she could or the rich man who gave lots of money and expected lots of recognition in return. [You’re all grownups. We shouldn't need to go further with this particular story. If we do, you can stop reading now. You are excused. Go away.]
Now, transposing this parable to patriotism let’s see where we go. There is the citizen who keeps track of what goes on in their town, their county, and their country and they vote - intelligently. They quietly volunteer where they are needed and can contribute. They obey the laws and regulations and they speak up when they believe the rules need some tweaking. When they serve on committees, they serve not as political appointees getting rewarded for their support of a certain party, but as citizens not expecting pay or recognition.
Then there is the other patriot, the one who lets you know that he is a patriot with the clanging of cymbals and the displaying of flags. He proclaims himself a patriot – over and over and over – and declares he is the only person who knows the true path of patriotism. And when he does something he considers patriotic he is sure that everyone knows about it.
Which one is the patriot?
Patriot: The person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. - Mark Twain (1835-1910)