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Ideas, Ideals, and Dreams

The etymology of the word patriot shows us that it refers to those who share a common country. I know that some limit their concepts to that simply definition, but I think the idea is bigger than that—primarily thanks to the adoption of the term Patriot by those who fought the American Revolution. It came to mean those who believed in something bigger than just an identified section of land, but rather in the ideals and ideas shared by those who had the vision to see what a country might become.

 I think that, for the free countries of the West, this is underscored by those who have come and continue to come to our shores. They come for the ideals and the ideas—the freedom, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They become citizens of the dreams.

Of course, they also become citizens of a real country. Given human frailty, no country has ever lived up entirely to what the visionaries imagined, but that does not mean that the ideas and ideals are not worth our loyalty. Fighting for those ideals often involves nothing more than becoming educated in the ideals and then acting on them. At the very least, a patriot should always be informed and vote.

 There is nothing of xenophobia inherent in patriotism. On the contrary. Countries that are free have traditionally been the ones that have come to the aid of others, whether during natural disasters or external threats to freedom. They have also often become the home for those from other lands. That is not to say that there aren't some people who are afraid of strangers and dress it up as patriotism—but a coat of paint does not make something true. Patriotism is a little like marriage: there is one to whom you are pledged and to whom you are faithful, but that doesn't mean you can't have a large circle of friends. 

Of course, if one's loyalty is to the ideas and ideals behind the flag, then one must be opposed to completely opposing ideals. One cannot smile and say of Hitler, for example, that he just had different ideas from ours, and that's just fine. It's not. However, disapproving of Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin is not xenophobia. If one truly believes in an ideal, then one must, but definition, believe the opposite is wrong. If justice is good, injustice must be bad. If freedom is good, oppression must be bad. It is meaningless to claim that one believes in something and then say the polar opposite has validty. If you believe opposites are both true, you don't really believe either.

I consider myself a Patriot because I value the ideals on which my country was built. I know that these ideals are not exclusive to my country, and I would probably feel comfortable in other countries that share these ideals. I feel at home in my country because of a shared culture and history, but I do not think that feeling at home in a place is the same as being patriotic. When I see the American flag on the Fourth of July, I don't think about how nice my neighbors or the fact that I know what to expect from people I encounter on the street—I think about the ideals, the dreams, the big ideas that formed the great experiment of freedom, and, of course, the cost. Because big ideas always have a price.