Do you know any “authentic patriots”?
In his new book, Authentic Patriotism, author Stephen Kiernan defines an authentic patriot this way:
“There is a name for a person who sees a problem and declares that it cannot be allowed to persist in a country as great as ours. There is a name for a person who exercises independence as a means of working for the common good. This is an authentic patriot.”
Authentic patriots are the ones who step directly into the path of a problem with commitment and personal engagement, typically inspiring others as they advocate for change. They are the retired doctors opening free medical clinics in impoverished communities. The students taking on climate change. The residents of troubled inner city neighborhoods planning community gardens, new day care programs and safer streets. The surfers and ocean lovers who are currently in the Gulf Coast working tirelessly to make sure the tragedy of the BP oil disaster never happens again.
Kiernan sees patriotism as being entwined with compassion. He writes about our nation’s most famous patriots who we learned about as school children, the colonists who declared their independence from Britain, when he leads into the idea that the definition of the word patriotism has been changed to mean “an unwavering faith in traditional values.” He feels that patriotism is what the colonists did when “they stopped having opinions and started taking steps.” They were engaged activists, discussing solutions and implementing them.
The bulk of Kiernan’s well-written and insightful book consists of less famous personalities. Individuals like you and me taking on a challenging situation with a deep determination. I know a few of these authentic patriots but there are many others I read about or hear about on the radio or the TV. They come from all walks of life. In most cases, they stumble into the problem, they don’t go looking for it. They make a commitment to change because of a desire to become part of the solution. I have a brother who is a leader in the climate change movement. Because of his job, he became deeply aware of the science behind climate change and now works relentlessly to educate others and make a difference. His co-workers and students work with equal passion. One person at a time, they became a larger group and inevitably, they formed a movement. They are authentic patriots.
A new friend of mine lost her mother at a young age to breast cancer. Now a mother herself, she works year round, raising money for cancer research in a very creative way. As she spreads the word about her efforts, more and more people join in to help her cause. She draws in equally passionate individuals and they are forming a stronger group as they work with her. Her organization, Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, is small but growing, all thanks to her decision to be part of the solution. She is one of many individuals all over the world helping to finance research that will wipe out diseases like cancer, ALS and AIDS. They are not thinking about themselves. They are collecting medical equipment to be shipped overseas, calling people to raise some money, bringing sneakers, books and clothes to AIDS orphans in Africa. They are spreading the word. They don’t just wave the flag. They represent the flag. They are ambassadors of the flag.
I know others who traveled to Haiti after the earthquake, who rallied leaders to change the laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians, who work in the Peace Corps or Teach for America and who are building small schools for girls in South Africa. I wish I knew more people like this. I think I need to look for more of them. I know they are nearby.
As we enter the weekend of July 4th when we celebrate our country and all of the people in it, I am very proud to know these special individuals, these authentic patriots.
Do you know any authentic patriots?