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Guest opinion: The decline of American patriotism

BY JESSICA KOLNER | NOVEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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U.S. Army (538,128), U.S. Navy (332,832), U.S. Marine Corps (194,912), U.S. Air Force (328,439), U.S. Coast Guard (42,331). In these five branches of the United States military there are nearly 1.5 million Americans offering their lives in service of their country. These men and women sacrifice days, months, and even years with their families in order to protect the greatest country in the world.  Many have overcome life-changing injuries, while others have made the ultimate sacrifice. There is no one way in which we can compensate these every-day heroes for their service, but we can appreciate the freedoms they fought for and honor them by being proud to be an American.

As of late, it seems fewer and fewer young people show any true interest in the country they call home. They reap its benefits but do little to ensure that these benefits remain for others to enjoy. Many choose not to vote but continue to complain about the outcomes of local, state, and federal elections, while others insist even if they did cast their vote, it wouldn’t accomplish anything.

Cheyenne Miller, a junior at the University of Iowa, acknowledged that patriotism is dwindling among her peers, saying, “It really irks me when I hear my peers say that they hate this country. I want to tell them that in other countries saying [they hate the country they were born and raised in] could lead to extensive jail time or even death.”  She goes on to say, “So many people come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families. I just wish my peers would appreciate the opportunity they were born into.”

Young people who are now in their later college years are old enough to remember the incredible waves of patriotism that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are old enough to remember how the American people united under the dark clouds of tragedy and stood firm in rebuilding each other’s American spirit. Nearly every house was flying a flag, churches were filled, and people looked out for each other’s safety. The question is, where have these positive and patriotic attitudes gone and how can we, as Americans, get them back?

Notably, negative events cultivate negative attitudes. For example, students in some public elementary and high schools no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Because of this, students are missing out on one of the first instances of American pride. Similarly, the nation is currently so intensely divided politically that young people who are growing up in this environment are being educated more on hating and disagreeing than the many reasons why they should be proud of their country.

Loving your country and being proud to be an American is something entirely separate from supporting one political party over another; it is entirely separate from anything the United States has done, politically or otherwise, in the past. American patriotism appeals to your heart. It’s an admiration for our Founding Fathers, a respect for what is written in the US. Constitution, it’s an intense appreciation and gratitude to those who have fought and gave their lives so that we may live freely. But most of all, American patriotism is the belief that you have been undeniably blessed to have been born in the greatest country in the world.

Happy Veterans Day to all those men and women who have served. This country would be nothing without you.


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