Each July 4 we celebrate Independence Day, the day on which our nation pauses to honor and to extend gratitude for those many great American patriots that served, fought, or died defending and preserving the liberties our founding fathers held sacred. However, we must also recognize that battles, just as patriots, can take myriad forms.
A patriot is any person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country. Although it is often taken to mean heroic military personnel, one certainly need not don a uniform to be a great patriot and an ardent defender of freedom. America’s patriots first and foremost fight for liberty and justice, and they do so in many ways. So in addition to military battles, we must also acknowledge the peaceful battles waged and won by patriots. We must therefore include, recognize, and honor all patriots that have risked or sacrificed their life to make America a great nation, worthy of that moniker, for without them, liberty would be lost.
Thank you, all our patriots, “because freedom can’t protect itself.”*
Our patriotic veterans, those brave men and women in uniform;
Our patriotic police, firefighters, and teachers, all of whom serve and protect our families and our children;
Our patriotic founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Armistead;
Our patriotic founding mothers, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Esther DeBerdt Reed, and Phillis Wheatley. Without women such as these our country may not have survived its birth;
Our patriotic Americans who worked for, or were brutally beaten or killed while serving organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, The Innocence Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Anti-Defamation League, organizations dedicated to the protection of civil and human rights;
Our patriotic activists such as Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Farhana Khera, Ruben Salazar, Harvey Milk, Van Jones and historic leaders Cesar Chavez, Rev. Mineo Katagiri, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
Patriotism means understanding that speaking out and defending liberty and justice for all is not subversive, it is the very essence of patriotism.
French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it.” Voltaire and the Enlightenment profoundly shaped America’s first patriots and gave breath to our lungs so that we could breathe the air as men and women free from tyranny and free to express our opinions, ideas, and perspectives;
Patriotism and love of America is not a Republican, Democratic, Tea Party “Patriot,” or Libertarian political construct. Be wary of those that try to wrap themselves in the flag and take ownership of patriotism. It would far better were they to wrap themselves in the values of our Constitution and the values the flag represents;
Patriotism includes acknowledging America’s strengths, weaknesses, diversity, faults, and responsibilities; it demands we make our nation better and more inclusive;
Patriotism requires we give America its due for how far we’ve come;
Patriotism demands we remember how far we still have to go.
We must remember that without the constant vigilance of all these patriots and those countless patriots working tirelessly and without notoriety every day, liberty would indeed be lost.
I’d like to express my gratitude and love to all the patriots that have fought against tyranny and injustice, to the families that have supported and sacrificed their loved ones, to the individuals who work to defend those amongst us whose voices are muffled and silenced because they are not among the privileged few or because they lack the power of the majority, and to the many patriots all around us that stand strong and steadfast everyday in their battle for civil rights, freedom, equality, dignity, and justice for all humankind.
I am thankful for our military personnel, past and present, and I am thankful for all America’s patriots for defending our freedoms and liberties.
* slogan of the American Civil Liberties Union
Ari Grayson is host of “Perspectives ~ with Dr. Ari Grayson,” broadcast Saturdays on KX.OneLaguna.com. He can be reached at DrAriOneLaguna@gmail.com