Each of us can be patriots


I believe those that put themselves in harm’s way for this great country, their families, and all the people in this nation deserve our deepest and undying gratitude.

I want to be sure to recognize every day as a day of gratitude to those that served, both living and deceased. I also want to acknowledge the sacrifice that parents, spouses and children endured as a part of the soldier, sailor, airman, and marine’s commitment to serve.

When I think about honoring our service men for the many conflicts this nation has engaged in, patriotism seems to have special meaning to me.

Patriotism is defined as a love for or devotion to one’s country.

Not blind love and devotion but devotion to a set of fundamental values for both individuals of this country and the population as a whole. Our ability to feel and model compassion and loving respect for each other’s humanity is part of that love and devotion in a practical way.

In the Declaration of Independence, it is written that all men are created equal and have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The definition raises the question of the meaning of country.

Is it a territory measured in square miles that we fight for like we did in the Indian Wars in the 1800s? I believe it means much more than that.

Is it about a society as it is and to be preserved as the Confederacy did in an effort to ensure the enslavement and exploitation of an entire group of people?

I believe this cannot be it since this is inconsistent with human growth, and a wider compassion and respect for all our fellow men.

We need to remember that the men who died for this country were – Christian and non-Christian, gay and straight, all ethnic and racial groups, and speakers of many languages.

That leaves us with the love and devotion for what this country can become and has yet to achieve. Our military men and women allow this country to become a more perfect union for all its citizens. We have come a long way from the company stores and segregation of the 1900s and many would say, including me, that we have a ways to go.

Since each religion feels that their belief is the moral high ground, each social class and racial group has a history that supports fear and suspicion of all others, the practical application of the values of this country led to the necessity of laws that balance the extent of individual freedom and the freedom of others, including those you will never meet.

Clearly, patriotism means respecting the freedoms that led to life, liberty and happiness in a safe environment for the nation both for the individual and each group for individuals in a delicate balance. This can lead to many other areas.

Hence, we have the right to be unconventional, crazy according to someone’s definition, or rebellious as long as it does not unnecessarily impinge on the freedom of another group or another individual.

So to me an American patriot is a person who is devoted to this country to the extent of being willing to sacrifice for this country whatever is needed and being asked for within the framework of the balance noted above respecting both the individual and the many groups that form this nation.

I believe each of us can be patriots to our country by respecting all of its peoples, religions, and beliefs that make up America in the days to come.

Gilbert Engel

Niagara, Wis.