The Fourth of July has come and gone again. For the first time in 20 years I was off on the holiday. It gave me a little time to think about just what the word patriotism really means.
I have always felt like I was a patriotic person. I remember the pride of 1976 when the country celebrated its bicentennial. I was barely 7 years old but I still remember the parade of tall ships in New York Harbor and the sense of pride we all felt.
That patriotism continued into early adulthood. Twice I visited military recruting stations with intentions of signing up. The first time a Marine recruiter scared me out of signing up by promising me a free ride to Parris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina, within 48 hours.
The second time I went as far as going through a military physical only to be weeded out minutes before swearing in because of a partial hearing loss. I had every intention of turning my love of water into a career in the U.S. Navy.
I credit some of my patriotism to great teachers in Harnett County. In eighth grade we were required to learn the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.
We also were required to remember all the verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic tunes. A few of those lines have faded in my 50-year-old mind, but the lessons taught by those exercises stick with me.
We need more of that kind of education. That might prevent so-called professional football players from claiming early versions of the flag are symbols of racism.
It might stop members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team from refusing to put their hands on their heart during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
We live in a world where people are turning the flag into a political symbol. It is world where civil rights leaders say they are “ashamed” of America. That happened last week.
Another one seeking the highest office in the land said they “hated” living in America today. My only statement on that is the last time I checked no one is making anyone stay. President Trump would gladly open a hole in his wall to let you out.
This year on the country’s birthday I thought of what America really means. I thought of my grandfather who was literally born on July 4, 100 years ago. I wonder what he would think of what has happened in this country. Probably the same thing I do, that Americans need more history lessons and less political agendas.
Tom Woerner is a reporter with The Daily Record. Reach him at 910-230-2038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.