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How do you measure patriotism?

The dictionary defines patriotism as “love and devotion to one’s country,” to which I would add, “and to the principles and ideals that guide its conduct.” Patriotism is not measured by the color of one’s skin or such insignificant stuff as the wearing of a flag pin on one’s lapel. And patriotism does not demand unquestioning concurrence with one’s government or its actions. Excessive or blind patriotism (known as chauvinism ” “my country, right or wrong”) in Germany and Japan in the 1930s led to World War II and all of the death and destruction it produced.

In fact, true patriotism requires us to challenge our government when we believe that it is straying from the principles and ideals that have made us a great nation and that we want to preserve. That is what over 80 percent of Americans are doing now when they say that our government is leading our country in the wrong direction. There is a strong sentiment that in the past seven years, our government has failed our country in just about every way imaginable: getting us into an unnecessary war, then mismanaging its aftermath, sanctioning torture of prisoners, trillion-dollars deficits (while rewarding its political base with huge tax cuts), political corruption, moral decay, incompetence at high levels (a cause of the catastrophic mismanagement of the Katrina disaster), and an imperious president attaching signing statements to laws passed by Congress declaring that he does not intend to be bound by those laws, and annulling our personal freedoms at will.

Under pressure for a “free-market” economy, provisions in laws regulating the operations of banking and financial institutions prohibiting usury and predatory lending practices were repealed, opening the door for financially powerful interests to victimize the less powerful with crippling credit card interest rates and unregulated abuses by the mortgage industry, which have brought about the current downslide in the economy.



And former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, sitting on his fat Congressional pension and health care plan, has the effrontery to call those who are speaking out about their financial distress “whiners.” Others, obviously living on comfortable salaries, benefits, and retirement plans, are so out of touch with reality that they are oblivious to the hardships facing growing numbers of middle-class families trying to live on reduced wages in the face of rising food and energy costs, as well as those already living below the poverty level. They should try living on an annual income of $13, 569 ($1,131/month) for a family of two, or $20,614 ($1,718/month) for a family of four, with no health care. Or try just paying rent and putting food on the table for a family on the minimum wage of $6.55/hour ($1,092/month if you are lucky enough to find a 40-hour/week job), again without any health benefits. Then tell me how well these families are living.

Currently 37 million Americans are living in poverty, and 47 million do not have health care. This is not the American Dream.



When our government has failed us so miserably, it is time for real patriots to speak out, and putting country before party, fight against the powers that have gotten us into our present straits and put our country back on the course that made us great. We have lost the way before, during the robber-baron era in the latter part of the 1800s and the excesses of the 1920s that precipitated the Great Depression. It was the strong feeling of patriotism by the American people under the enlightened leadership of two Roosevelts, one a Republican and one a Democrat, who put our country back on the right track. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.


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