Patriotism is a feeling that is quite difficult to explain. Pride is among the most common ways to describe patriotism. Many Americans are very patriotic and will do whatever is needed to continue the growth and success of their nation. On September 11, 2001, Americans were surprised by a terrorist attack, but quickly set aside meager differences to band together and support their homeland. After the wake of this enormous attack, preparations were made to try to prevent terrorism from ever happening again. The media allowed everyone around the country to know what was happening and how they could help. With each citizen doing a small part, the country soon rose back to its feet and resumed its leading position.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines patriotism to be “the character or passion of a patriot; love of or zealous devotion to one’s country.” Local patriotism follows the same general idea but for a smaller community, rather than the entire country. Patriotism is a part of almost every person. Americans are proud to call themselves Americans knowing that their country is among the strongest and most influential nations in the world. The same patriotic sensation is borne by citizens of every other nation in the world. Local patriotism extends from the state level all the way to each family. People are naturally born with a competitive trait, which can be exemplified by their patriotism.
Being patriotic has not always been good in the eyes of the people. Until 1968, there was no law against “flag desecration” in America (O’Leary 3). By blindly following a country’s leaders many people would believe they were being patriotic. However, the leaders do not always act on the values and principles on which the nation was built. The Nazis, for example, was an organization very patriotic toward their homeland of Germany. Their oversight was that their “father-land” never intended for its people to act the way that the Nazis did. In the early half of the eighteenth century, being a patriot was most commonly a bad thing (OED). This was because many small revolutionary groups justified their actions by calling themselves patriotic when trying to instate a new government through civil war. Mexico, for example, has had relatively short lived political reigns due to rival militia groups trying to takeover the government.
During wartime, patriotism of a country’s people rises dramatically. This is partially due the idea that each country thinks it is superior and only one country can prevail as the superior nation. Citizens from both warring countries will rally together to aid their country to victory. The people of a nation will forget about things such as race, sex, and different political views. After the American Civil War, patriotism took on an entirely new meaning for blacks and other minorities. Patriotism now meant that one would not only die for his country, but also that the government would guarantee social, political, and racial equality (O’Leary 112). Instead of bickering amongst themselves the people united to form a strong force that was willing to back up their government and its ideals. With an entire nation united, much can be accomplished at almost instantaneous rates.
On the other hand there is patriotism during peacetime. Citizens are not very enthusiastic about their country unless its authority is being tested through a war or some other form of adversity. In the wake of the September eleventh attacks, every house had an American flag hanging out front. Cars were painted with red and white stripes. Many new songs came out praising America’s greatness and its ability to persevere. But as the months went by and the economy resettled, the patriotic symbols seemed to disappear. The American people no longer felt threatened and therefore had no reason to show their patriotism. Many people would argue that these citizens who put away their flags are not true patriots, but it is difficult to say what patriotism really means. It is merely a frame of mind that unites many people under a few general ideas. One example of this was on July 4, 1918, when nearly one hundred thousand foreign-born people, from over thirty different nations, surrounded Independence Hall in Philadelphia and vowed loyalty to America.
The patriotism of Americans was called upon on September 11, 2001, when their homeland was savagely struck by terrorists. The people quickly reacted by doing all they could to help those hurt by the attacks. The government, with support from everyone under its legislation, then went after retribution for the unlawful attacks. The Austin American Statesmen newspaper was one of the many daily newspapers that kept up with the current situation of the country during this war. One particular article in The Austin American Statesmen was written about the government’s contentment of the raise in patriotism.
While the paper alluded to the determination of the country in its war against terrorism, the headline revealed the fact that the war could be a form of resolution for the major ailments of the country and the current administration. For a start, the war has produced a passionate nationalist unity and intense feeling of patriotism focused on the charged figure of the American citizen. While the meaning of this patriotic fervor is not yet clear and its direction is still volatile, there is little question that, for the moment, it has erased from view the issue of ongoing class and racial violence (Aretxaga 147).
The war on terrorism has strengthened the government by uniting all of its citizens. However, without another incident there is little motivation to represent one’s patriotism, and this may cause the government’s authority to quickly decline. Keeping the up the morale of the American citizens is very difficult because the world moves so quickly. The patriotism shown during the beginning of the war on terror has been fluctuating up and down depending on new findings and recent attacks.
Today, during a time of uneasy peace, patriotism is on the rise among many American people. A new war that will require a large American effort is on the verge of erupting. People are seeing and hearing about current events happening overseas that could promptly bring the United States of America into battle. News broadcasts help to sustain a sense of patriotism by keeping its viewers intrigued. On the MSNBC homepage, there are multiple stories about threats from foreign countries and terrorist activity. They range from Al-Qaida activity seen in Kenya, to Saddam Hussein’s sons receiving power after his reign. All of these strongly support the move toward a more patriotic country. More and more people are enlisting in the armed services to fight against these people that threaten the safety of America (Silberman).
Patriotism is an idea that may never be fully explained by words. It is seen in the actions and commitments of loyal citizens defending their principles. Patriotism “is where men, united in solidarity, reach out hands across all artificial barriers in the common work for liberty and equality for all” (O’Leary 232). The American Congress has passed the PATRIOT Act in response to the terrorist attacks to uphold the feeling of security by American people(Aretxaga 148). The media continues to support patriotic ideas by getting viewers interested in national affairs that could threaten the United States. The spirit of patriotism will continue to live on through the people who stand up for the beliefs of a nation.