"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security."
I was walking out of the local Walmart and saw a family standing in front of their SUV. The SUV was a candy apple red, and upon it was all the symbols of a good American. On his rear view window is a decal stating, "God Bless America!". On the bumper are three more sticker, "Peace Is Patriotic," "These Colors Don't Run," and "Do Not Strike If It Can Be Avoided, But Never Hit Softly." In the front passenger window was little plastic pole with an American flag fluttering in the breeze.
Apparently, the man and woman were having issues because because of the way they were addressing each other, but I paid it no mind. People have disagreements, is it the nature of humanity and the freedom of our society. As I was walking past this commotion, this patriotic individual raised his hand and struck this woman smartly on the face.
I was appalled, I am not the sort of person to raise his fist to a woman out of anger. I found this action horrible. I immediately, dropped my bags and yelled at him to not touch her again.
The gentleman looked back at me, His eyes glaring with hatred. His face was red, his teeth were clinched, and in a loud booming voice said, "Who the hell are you to tell me what to do, @!$%#boy!"
In all actuality, I was shocked. I am not in this type of situation everyday. Not only was he mad at me for interrupting the abuse of his wife. He was trying to instigate me further by remarking on the coloring of my skin. I replied as any good red blooded American would in the face of this type of insult.
I looked him keenly in the eye and said, "Sir, get it straight. I ain't just a @!$%#, I AM A PRAIRIE @!$%#, and an American. I am asking you to not disrespect my country by hitting your wife in front of my flag. I respect it too much for that.!"
First of all, for those who do not know, a prairie @!$%# is a derogatory name given to Native Americans. In all fairness, I am against all sorts of abuses, but one does not make peace by just passing judgments. As soon as I said those words, he looked around and saw the commotion that was developing.
Then a police car appeared on the scene. The officer walked up to the gentleman and talked to him and his wife. Then walked over and talked to me.
"So, you have been causing trouble here huh? Interfering with an argument they were having? How would you like me to arrest you for disturbing the peace? You better leave before I decide to run you in."
I was dumbfounded. What was going on here? Was I not doing the right thing by trying to stop an act of abuse? So I decided to leave. Unfortunately, the bags with the items I purchased had disappeared. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, stupid, and all sorts of other confusion. This is not how it was supposed to be. I was doing the right thing, yet it was I who was being threatened with the penalty.
Going home let me reflect on the actions of the day. Would it have been better if I did nothing? Should I have done something more? Maybe this is a southern thing, being new to the south, I did not understand?
The more I thought, the more I remembered the bumper stickers on his car. They spoke of peace and patriotism. They spoke of bravery and pride. Apparently this man thought of himself as a patriot, But what is a patriot?
I believe the experience that I had is actually similar to the problems we have in America today. There is lots of flag waving, political rhetoric about how great our country is, and support for questionable leadership.
Some people believe that a patriot always supports the doctrine of government officials. Some believe that a patriot is someone who only sees our country under a favorable light. Others go even further to say that a patriot is someone who recognizes that GOD's will is what is sovereign in the decisions our leaders make.
I must say if you fall into these categories, then you are not a patriot. A patriot is someone who loves his country but loves its people more. A patriot believes in his country and his government but will stand up against injustice against its people. A patriot thinks not of himself but of his people and is willing to put himself on the line for those ideals and to better society.
A patriot is one who understands his responsibilities as a Citizen. That means he must exercise their right of citizenship by watching, reading and listening to news and information that will prepare them to cast an informed, responsible vote at every election, local, state and national.
Another part of that exercise is to provide guidance to your children on civics, government, culture, society and history, all of which help to define that family's character. Children must be taught to be Citizens by their parents.
Citizens of the United States may have a great many rights that give them freedoms we all hold dear: The freedom of independent thought; to voice those opinions, individually to their elected representatives or collectively in small or large groups; to worship as they so choose; to be safe from unreasonable searches of their persons, their homes, or their private papers.
However, the theory of democracy holds that along with these rights come responsibilities: to obey the laws; to pay legally imposed taxes; to serve on juries when called to do so; to be informed about issues and candidates; and to exercise the right to vote that has been won for so many through the toil and tears of their predecessors.
Raising our children to not only appreciate the freedoms, but to defend the rights we value is another aspect of Citizenship and Patriotism. Anyone who works to make the USA a better nation is a patriot! But if that same person does not vote by casting an INFORMED VOTE, that citizen has failed the test of Patriotism!
When we think of patriots, we think of our forefathers. People like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington were willing to give their love, their liberty, and their life for the sake of the establishment. Too often, I hear the excuse that they were great men living in a very tumultuous time, but they are not like me. I am only an average citizen, making an average wage, doing average work.
Understand this, a great man never recognizes his own greatness. Whether it is a great patriot, a great athlete or a great scientist, greatness dictates that we strive for an ideal that may never be achievable. Do you think when people went to talk to George Washington, he came across as a "great man?" Our founding fathers did not look to each other for this ideal of greatness, but they agreed on what was a great ideal.
There is not one man that can be said to embody the ideal American. There is not one single individual that can be pointed to and say he is the "American Ideal." Why? Because we are all Americans. Whether you were born in a log cabin in the Ozarks, raised on the streets of New York City, or even immigrated here from a foreign land, we are all Americans. AMERICA is not a country, AMERICA is not a boundary, AMERICA is an idea, a concept, and a creed.
Few people realize that the United States actually has a creed:
"I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign nation of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principals of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes. I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies (internal and external.)" -William Tyler Page Written 1917, accepted by the United States House of Representatives on April 3, 1918.
Since I started writing, I have found that my ideas of what it means to be an American Citizen have changed. At one time, I believed that being a citizen meant just taking advantage of the freedoms that others have fought for me. I can honestly say, when I believed this, I was not a Citizen, I was a resident.
Now, on a daily basis, I ask myself "What can I do today to make America great?" Whether it be as simple as exercising my freedom of speech, making an intelligent vote in an election or as inconvenient as speaking out when I see a woman get hit by her husband, I can comfortably say that I am doing something to help make America great.
"As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence. "