As we approach the upcoming anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, we’ll naturally see a rise in the number of flags outside of houses, along with a surge in people talking about national security, American exceptionalism, and all sorts of other reasons why our country is so great. At the same time, we’ll also see a surge of anti Americanism by those people who, no matter what the facts may be, constantly insist that this country has been the cause of all the world’s problem since the dawn of time. Although the debates on these matters tend to revolve around all sorts of various perspectives, they always seem to be centered around a concept known as “patriotism.” That being the case, it would make sense to take a moment to ask ourselves exactly what patriotism is, and what it really means.
As with everything, the best way to understand a higher-level concept is to peel away the outer layers and get to the core, then to build back from the ground up.
So, what are the core elements of patriotism, and what are the elements that are associated with patriotic values? Clearly these tend to be among the more selfless actions and values like sacrifice, pride in your work, honor, integrity, dependability and the ability to go out of your way for others. But even beyond these actions is the ability to recognize and appreciate and acknowledge these actions when they are taken by others.
So it would seem that patriotism is ultimately about the ability to say thank you. The willingness to show some appreciation for the efforts and contributions of others. The understanding and the appreciation of the fact that the only reason you have the luxuries and opportunities you do is because of the work and the effort and the sacrifices of the people who came before you who built a system that allowed those opportunities – whether for business or pleasure – to develop.
Based on this quick analysis, we can conclude that, at the end of the day, patriotism is really about one thing – gratitude. Either you have it, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.