Will you show your patriotism?

The 4th of July has always represented summertime fun – barbecues, family get-togethers, pool parties, and fireworks. As a kid, this day marked the halfway point between school years and provided a terrific way to celebrate summer vacation. We didn’t spend a lot of time considering what the day actually means in American history, nor did we talk about or even understand patriotism or the birth of independence. It was just a fun day.

As an adult, I now realize that the 4th of July is one of the ways Americans celebrate independence from foreign rule, freedom to establish its own ruling, and unity of spirit in those efforts. In addition to other holidays (Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day), the country recognizes and honors patriotism by celebrating the 4th with concerts, parades, and memorial events. We recite the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and we play and/or sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Why don’t we show our patriotism more often?

Throughout the year, as I participate in Western horse shows around the country, I see these events begin with a prayer and singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” – and sometimes reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance,” too. Everyone stands quietly, removes their hats, holds their hand over their heart, and sings or recites along. Nobody takes a knee in defiance.

These traditions bring many people, including me, near to tears. During the prayer, pledge, or song, I am reminded of how lucky I am to live in this country. In the USA, I am free to do as I please – pursue any opportunity – speak my mind – join any group – participate in any activity – in that great pursuit of happiness. Sometimes, amid all the sad and horrific news events, the political rhetoric, and the myriad of problems our country faces, we forget how incredibly fortunate we are. Even those who rally against the status quo or in support of change must recognize (or should) their incredible privilege to do so without danger.

The USA is only 247 years old – young for a country, for a system of government, and for the great societal experiment we are; yet we have accomplished a good deal and look forward to accomplishing more. It would be great to see a return to celebrating our accomplishments, honoring our leaders and veterans, and rejoicing in our  independence.

Demonstrating patriotism, tolerance, and integrity all year long could help bring our nation closer to a peaceful, productive, and unified country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers and students recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” in schools again? To play the “Star-Spangled Banner” and have those listening honor their country by removing their hats and covering their hearts? To be proud to be an American?

Our country is not perfect; our form of government and the different systems (economic, judicial, etc.) could benefit from changes. But the basic premise for our country is the best: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I encourage all to return to a patriotic expression of gratitude and appreciation for our distinctive United States of America. Happy 4th of July!

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