Ask anyone the question, "What does patriotism mean to you?", and I promise you, you will not get one standard, clear answer. Sure, you're going to be told how we live in the greatest country on earth, and how we're the free and the brave, and you'll certainly hear about the military, and all the sacrifices that go along with service to our nation. What you probably won't hear are the many other, deeper ideologies that play into one's patriotism, or lack thereof.
The concept of patriotism is a very complex one. It's not as simple as reciting a pledge or singing an anthem. Patriotism, by simple definition, is the exaltation of national eminence, typically expressed as power over other nations, and an emotional attachment to the nation that one originates from. Patriotism is an extension of politics and its expressions and meanings are not easily agreed upon. There are so many ways in which people feel patriotism, and there are so many differing ideas of what it means to be patriotic. To most, being patriotic is all about the military and the exaltation of our troops. To some, being patriotic is simply exercising the right to vote and elect the leaders of our nation, or to fully embrace the rights of all of us to live freely and speak out against injustices in society. And then to some, apparently, patriotism is defined by a symbolic act at a sporting event.
I am deeply disturbed by the assertion that, because a sports figure refuses to participate in the singing of the National Anthem, he is then un-American and a disgrace. Adlai Stevenson summed it up perfectly when he said, "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime." I don't know precisely when sporting events became synonymous with American patriotism, but I do find it very interesting that you don't see these grand exaltations of our flag and anthem in very many places besides sports arenas and ball fields What is particularly interesting, is that during the World Wars, fans turned to sports to escape politics and now it is so woven into the fabric of sporting events that when an athlete quietly declines participation, he is called out and shamed, his jerseys burned because of his dissent.
For myself -- and I suspect, people such as Colin Kaepernick, true patriotism means standing up for those in society who aren't given the same opportunities, those who aren't being treated with the same respect and given the same individual liberty that others are. To me, true patriotism is to align oneself with the ideas this country was built upon. What ideas, you ask? Read or re-read the Declaration of Independence. It's all laid out beautifully for you. All men are created equal. They are endowed not by government, but by birth, with certain unalienable rights. First and foremost among those rights are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government must be committed and bound to protecting the peace and preserving our individual liberties, and doing so through the informed consent of the people. It's the inalienable right of a free people to rid themselves of a government that becomes destructive of those liberties, just as our Founders did in a supreme act of courage and defiance more than two hundred years ago. And when these liberties are in danger -- dissent is inevitable. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism", and I believe that to be true. And apparently, so does Colin Kaepernick.
So, what is real patriotism? I believe that real patriotism comes from the heart and is always voluntary. It's a feeling of loyalty that comes with certain conditions. Those conditions being that our nation is serving ALL of our interests - and when that isn't the case, dissent is so very patriotic.