July 4–Blessing and Patriotism

Robert Reich offers this interesting take on patriotism as we enter the Fourth of July holiday.  I confess that I have not, in recent years, liked to use the word patriotism or patriot or patriotic.  For me, they have become words that are too often associated with the attitude of “my country, right or wrong” or other notions that don’t appreciate inquiries into the idea or meaning of world community.

Reich’s understanding of patriotism makes me want to rethink that, and I suspect that Unitarian-Universalists and our friends may find some very familiar ideas here.  His version of patriotism includes 5 principles:

  1. Coming together for the common good.
  2. Taking on the fair share of the burdens of a country.
  3. Preserving and fortifying our democracy by expanding the voices heard.
  4. Taking pride in our government and working to improve it
  5. Seeking to strengthen the “we” in “We the people of the United States”

I hear values in this understanding of patriotism that are dear and important to me.  I hear a pledge to the inherent dignity and worth of all people.  I hear a call for justice, equity and compassion in all relations.  I hear traces of a call to the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  The call for the use of conscience and the democratic process comes through loud and clear in this kind of patriotism.  This kind of patriotism understands that we now live in a world community where peace, liberty and justice for all are required. Underneath these 5 principles of patriotism is an understanding of connectivity that we call the interdependent web of all existence of which we are all a part.

Reich’s short, poignant lesson in patriotism makes me want to reclaim the word.  They also make me want to lean more deeply into our Unitarian-Universalist Principles on this Fourth of July in 2016, two hundred and forty years after our first declaration of independence.  They are our guides for living in this world, and I think they may be a blessing to our nation as it seeks its way forward.

Bob Patrick

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