Patriotism does not belong to a political party. Veterans pay attention to where the country is going, engage in public discourse, and believe it is our responsibility to do so.
Patriotism, concerns itself with ethics, law, and devotion to the common good. As a young Army officer, I understood the meaning of patriotism in three words, “duty, honor, country.”
There is a new form of patriotism that is unacceptable: patriotism that proclaims “country first.” New patriotism concerns itself with moral responsibilities toward members of “our” group and by definition diminishes responsibilities toward non-members. New patriotism manifests itself in English only legislation, poor treatment of battlefield casualties, and blindness to the effects of war on foreign populations. New patriotism can accept extreme poverty, famine and the genocides in Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia and Myanmar. New patriotism asks, “what’s in it for me?” without regard for the impacts on the rest of society.
My uniform doesn’t fit, but I keep it in a trunk with my fatigues, compass and decorations. From time to time I get out my compass and am reassured that patriots will never lose their way in this complex and changing society. It is up to us to speak out and watch over the country, just as we did on diverse and distant borders long ago.
Our country needs us now as much as ever.
~ From a letter to the editor submitted to the Daily Iowan on Sept. 29, 2008.