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|July 3-9, 2008
Back to Letters
The tough love of a true Patriot
by Stewart Sallo
What is patriotism? That is the question we pose this week, as we prepare for our annual Fourth of July celebration. Never has this question been more relevant than it is during this troubling period in American history, and never has the answer been more elusive.
Let’s start by remembering the origins of the Fourth of July. Despite its modern association with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics and other summertime festivities, the Fourth of July, aka Independence Day, is the commemoration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, in which a group of stubborn rebels affirmed their freedom from the Kingdom of Great Britain and established a new sovereign nation, the Thirteen United States of America.
Ask any American about the meaning of the Fourth of July and you’re likely to hear the word “patriotic,” or a derivation thereof, within the first sentence. The Fourth of July is a time to express one’s patriotism, the sense of pride in and devotion to one’s country. But, again, what does that mean? And how can we best answer that call during this election year, as we face the many disconcerting issues that are firmly on the political table: an immoral foreign policy, declining economic conditions, an unprecedented lack of trust in governmental leadership, exploitation of the masses to serve the needs of the powerful few and the erosion of human rights and freedoms.
Ironically, these are the same kinds of conditions that were faced by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine and the other “stubborn rebels” who formed the First and Second Continental Congresses during the years immediately prior to the Declaration of Independence. These rebels were known as “Patriots,” and their purpose was to establish an organized protest of the “Intolerable Acts” of British King George III. Eventually, the Patriots engaged in the ultimate act of rebellion by adopting the “Lee Resolution” (presented by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776), which read, in part: “Resolved: That these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
So, a patriot is someone who, within the context of love for and devotion to his or her country, engages in rebellion, as necessary, in order to protest a government’s intolerable acts. These acts of courage, commitment and sacrifice do justice to the term “patriot” in a way that the mere standing at the sight of the “colors” at a sporting event, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing a “Support Our Troops” sticker on a car could never do.
It is easy to lay claim to love and devotion, but much more difficult to back it up with action. You can say you love your child, for example, but unless you are willing to get up in the middle of the night with her when she’s had a bad dream, or get down on the floor and play a game in the evening when you’re dog tired after a long day at work, your professions are as empty as flying the flag on your porch on the Fourth of July.
And further, being a loving and devoted parent inevitably includes the willingness to deliver “tough love” to your child. When your child gets good grades in school and stars on his or her Little League team, you can be a loving and devoted parent by simply standing on the sidelines and cheering. But when your child comes home at 3 a.m. or crashes the car, a good parent needs to roll up the sleeves and bring on the tough love.
Love and devotion to one’s country is no different. When your country delivers millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to the Chinese earthquake victims, it’s easy to be proud to be an American. But when your country wages war under false pretenses to line the pockets of corporate cronies — leading to a protracted national recession — a truly patriotic American protests the “intolerable acts” of its government.
Lee Iacocca, the former president of the Ford Motor Company, but best known for his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s, is one such patriot. Who can forget Iacocca as the straight talking, flag-waving, America-loving spokesperson for cars such as the Plymouth Sundance? You can still hear echoes of the enduring jingle: “The Pride is Back. Born in America.” And yet, with the recent release of his new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, Iacocca has elevated himself to a level of patriotism that he never achieved with the Stars and Stripes waving behind him in those unforgettable commercials.
“Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening?” Iacocca writes in his book. “Where the hell is our outrage?
We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got
corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!”
This year on Independence Day, as you’re watching the fireworks, ask yourself whether you’re a true Patriot in the mold of Franklin, Adams, Hancock, Jefferson, Hamilton, Paine and Iacocca. Because if you are, you’ll be thinking about delivering your own personalized brand of “tough love” to the country you love. America needs it.
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