I just returned from a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I saw more than one sign referring to the city as “The City of Patriots.” That made me think.
pa·tri·ot ˈpātrēət/ noun
1. a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.
Many men these days claim the above title, but I’m not sure most would take up the gauntlet if it were thrown down. Because the gauntlet is thrown down, on a daily basis, and most people do nothing about it other than talk about what they would do if it came to their personal doorstep. I suggest that the gauntlet has been tossed and shattered, and many self-proclaimed patriots either don’t recognize it or are knowingly failing to do anything about it other than rant. And the thing is, I’m fairly certain the gauntlet today would be – IS – vastly different from the gauntlet of the 1700’s. Plus, there are different types of patriots. Take the historical Adams cousins, for example: Samuel was a gun toting zealot and a member of the “Sons of Liberty.” He used tactics and methods of which his second cousin John did not quite approve. On the other hand, John was more of a negotiator and wordsmith. Both brought great value to the cause, and both were patriots, but they were quite different.
I’m sure there were lots of people in the 1700’s who were brave, as now; lots who thought they were brave but would fail in a test, as now, and lots who showed their patriotism – who fought – with guns as well as tools other than guns.
I submit the idea that in modern times, neither the defense of the nation nor the defense of individual freedom against his own government will likely be accomplished with mere guns. It is true that one individual with a gun can fight another individual with a gun, but bad governments fight with chemicals and terrorism now, and good governments fight with fighter jets and missiles. Both fight with propaganda and media. One guy standing in his doorway holding a rifle would, neither then nor now, even qualify as a martyr, much less a patriot. We are well past the days when Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty waged a rebellion or defended their liberties with personal firearms. John Adams’ methods are still just as useful though – negotiation, persuasion, connecting people and championing an ideological cause. Without putting people together with a common, organized cause and mission, a guy with a gun or a gentleman with a pen or a press is just that one person – hardly a patriot. A patriot doesn’t just defend his home or his personal will.
According to the definitions above, patriots defend their country against enemies, detractors, and those who would interfere with individual rights. It seems to me that these opponents come as ideologies now, rather than soldiers in red coats or decrees from King George. Therefore perhaps it’s fair to say that modern patriots come in the form of parents raising children to respect the interests of others, teachers training students to reason intelligently rather than resorting to violence, and elders passing on bravery and values that promote freedom. In other words, a modern patriot is the person teaching and protecting ideologies and values rather than simply standing on his private threshold with a weapon.
I know what an enemy is, but what is a detractor?
de·trac·tor dəˈtraktər/ noun – a person who disparages someone or something.
So a patriot defends his nation against disparaging remarks? Oh no! Now we have a real mess, because this nation is so factioned off these days, in order to be this type of patriot, we must figure out who the nation is and what constitutes “disparaging remarks.” Even in the Adams’ cousins day, there were factions in the nation. Some were Whigs (revolutionaries) and some were Tories (loyal to the king). The Tories of the American Colonies either left, were killed, or were persuaded to join the Revolution. If a Patriot is one who defends his nation against disparaging remarks, he can’t simultaneously be one who disparages his nation. This seems to me to be simple mathematics:
A > B ∴ B ≠ A
The point: Let’s not call ourselves patriots if we are not currently, presently defending it against enemies and detractors, and certainly not if we are the detractors.
But who is the Nation? Who are the detractors? What values promote freedom? I’ll have to get to that in the next installment.