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Patriotism Isn't Blind Loyalty: Loving America Means Wanting to Improve It

By Abe Kaul, Secretary, Democratic Party of Denver

True patriotism isn't about blind loyalty. It's about loving our country enough to want to improve it.

What does it mean to be patriotic? It means you love your country. As a line in a movie once told me, you don't have to believe in your government; you just have to believe in your country. An issue, however, is that the right seems to believe they have an exclusive claim to patriotism, while the left appears to go along with this, for example, by not flying the American flag because that is what right-wingers do. It's unfortunate!

The way the political right views patriotism is also juvenile; they believe that we should never criticize America because it has never done anything wrong. But that's not true. As much as I love my country and wouldn't want to live anywhere else, the United States of America has made plenty of mistakes, and it's okay to acknowledge that."

I think back to President Obama’s farewell address when he talked about American exceptionalism. For 240 years, our nation's call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It's what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It's what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It's what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It's what powered workers to organize. It's why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs, as well.

So that's what we mean when we say America is exceptional — not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It's always been contentious. Sometimes it's been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels like we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.

Another important aspect of patriotism is taking care of your fellow Americans, especially those who are less fortunate. The political right often emphasizes freedom, interpreting it as less government involvement and lower taxes. But if you don’t have healthcare, paid time off for when kids are born, or vacation days, are you truly free? It does not seem so.

In the end, patriotism is about loving your country and wanting what's best for it and your fellow citizens. It doesn't mean blindly believing America is perfect or that it has never made mistakes. True patriotism is acknowledging our nation's flaws and failures while still believing in its founding ideals and potential for positive change. It's working to make life better for all Americans, especially the less fortunate, so that everyone can experience the freedom and opportunity our country promises.

Patriotism belongs to all of us, regardless of political party. We can disagree on policies and priorities while still sharing a fundamental love for our nation. By expanding our view of what patriotism means, we can reclaim it as a unifying force rather than a partisan wedge. America's story has always been one of striving and struggle, success and setback, but ultimately progress - however uneven and incomplete. True patriots keep moving that story forward.



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