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A Renewed Patriot


Regina Calton Burchett

Being an American is something I’ve taken for granted for most of my life.  I grew up as a baby boomer, with the freedom to demonstrate against my government during the Vietnam War. I was arrested, but also acquitted after a jury trial, for participating in a “sit-in” during the Kent State debacle.  My friends were arrested for painting the American flag on their vans, and for wearing clothes that had the same design as the flag.

As a country, we have interfered in other countries’ governments, often to promote democracy, but sometimes for our own political reasons. We have politicians at all levels who take advantage of their office, for money and power; for themselves and for friends.

For so long, it has seemed that conservatives were the only ones touting patriotism. Many held it in front of them as a shield while promoting programs and laws to benefit a select few. The idea and the word, ‘Patriotism,' have often had tainted ramifications for me, due to those who used it for their own ends. I felt, while I was in college, that I was also patriotic, in wanting my country to not needlessly kill boys my own age in a military action with no end in sight. I did not believe in “America, love it or leave it," but in helping to make American what I was taught it should be.

But now I think I know the true feeling of patriotism, of seeing what my country could be, should be, and sometimes is. My parents and others who experienced World Wars had an understanding of patriotism that they never fully explained to me. Maybe they assumed I had this understanding also, or maybe it was something they just couldn’t explain. Or possibly, I simply couldn’t hear.

Underlying all the mistakes we have made as a country, we have a foundation of fairness and open-mindedness that we have grown up with, and assume all others hold as a basis for ideology. The freedom and beliefs that we take for granted - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - have enabled us to help other people and other countries. Our democracy is very accurately symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, as a beacon for those who live under despots and dictators.

The terrorists who have attacked our country, using our own people and our own technology as their weapons, have awakened a patriotism that I never realized I could feel, and have shown me an ideal I have never dreamed. The ideal of a United States where our governing is conducted by people who truly want to serve others. The ideal of a country where we can freely accept other religions, other ideas, other races, while still looking upon one another as fellow Americans. The ideal of a country where we willingly care for those who in fact cannot care for themselves; the children, the old, the disabled. The ideal of a country that is a model for others to follow.

This feeling of patriotism is something I cannot totally put into words.  But stop for a moment to think of our country. Of our mountains, our lakes, our trees and our fields. Our history, our cities and our many cultures.  Think of the words to “America the Beautiful.”  Think of the people you have met from different parts of the country and how similar their lives are to your own. Think of the people sitting on four airplanes the morning of September 11, going to visit family or on business, just as we have done.

We again have true heroes – not sports figures or singers or actors. These heroes knowingly gave their lives in order to save others, in the air and on the ground. The red, white and blue ribbon I wear is to honor them, to remember them, and to admit my own inadequacy in being able to help. While we may falter for a short while, economically and in other ways, from this attack, we are becoming stronger as a nation. For this moment in time, we have united as a country.

It is not our government that is ‘America.' We are America.

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