What does patriotism mean?


This piece was adapted from a podcast originally broadcast on July 4th, 2017. For as long as I can remember, the 4th of July has unequivocally been a holiday marked by pride, excitement, and patriotism. Today should not be devoid of those emotions. There is a lot to be proud of in this country, especially when it comes to understanding what many of us, not all, are privileged to have: safety and freedom. It's thanks to public servants throughout our country that we should be prideful of these privileges.

Whether it should be policemen and women, first responders, our troops, or local government officials (even at times national public officials), 4th of July is a time to reflect on how thankful we should be for people who protect everything that makes our country great, both physically and figuratively.

Beyond that, however, there is more to consider. Our work in this country is not done, and it goes without saying that there is always room for improvement. The United States of America has a complicated past full of moments to be proud of and moments to be truly ashamed of. The same is true today and we have to be mindful of what issues persist in our country.

I draw inspiration on how to reflect on what America means from Kendrick Lamar. In his interview with Zayne Lowe, Kendrick is asked whether his idea of America is "a good idea":

"It's a content idea. A content idea, simple as that."

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what he means here, but what I think Kendrick is trying to say is that it's adequate. It's not bad; it's not good. It's just alright, which leaves room undoubtedly for improvement.

Kendrick further explores what this idea of improvement means  in his interview when he recounts a conversation with former President Obama:

"He says 'change don't start while I'm here. It starts once we leave the space that we in'."

Kendrick hits on an important point: change does not occur in a moment. It is an ongoing process. With that mindset, it is never possible to be unequivocally proud of our country. We must always be asking ourselves the same question that Kendrick asks on his track "XXX".

"But is America honest/or do we bask in sin?"

I think it's these kinds of questions that mark a true patriot. Someone who truly loves their country is also critical when they need to be. Patriotism is not marked by pride, but rather love, and make no mistake- both emotions are quite different.

On 4th of July, there is room for pride, but there is also room for, just as importantly, reflection. I don't expect all Americans to be proud of their country right now, whether it be Muslims, LBGT communities, African-American communities, whoever it may be. But I didn't expect all Americans to be proud of their country when Obama was in office. Take for example Rust Belt states, and coal communities.

At each point in our country's 240-year history, there has been some segment of the population that has been rightfully not proud of the United States. But today, at least I think, there are still a lot of people who still love this country. That love should be channeled into a positive energy focused on how we can make sure that we continue to progress forward.

I think that these thoughts from my partner Colin's personal Facebook page sum up what I'm going for here.



The analogy for being patriotic is like being a fan of your favorite sports team. You don't have to always be proud of how well your team is doing. There are times when your team is going to be losing a lot, and there times when your team is winning a lot. Throughout that entire time, you're never going to stop being a fan of your team.

You're going to continue to being dedicated and committed to watching them every other Sunday, every other day, whatever it might be. But you're also never going to waver in your want for them to be successful and to actually win.

I think that's what patriotism is about. You're always going to be a fan of the United States. You're always going to be rooting for them. But never once are you going to not be critical of it out of fear of not being patriotic. In fact, that is the most patriotic thing you can do.

Happy Independence Day.