Last summer, I spent six weeks in China teaching English. One night I came downstairs for dinner, wearing a t-shirt and sweat shorts. Normally I didn’t wear an outfit like that to dinner, but the people knew me well enough now and honestly, it had been a long, hot day and I just needed to get out of my teaching clothes. I sat down next to my sweet host friend who was interning for the school. She pointed to the small American flag on my shorts and said, “Oh! For the American Captain?” I realized she thought my shorts were Captain America shorts. I briefly thought of saying it was just the flag, but then I realized how weird it is that Americans put the flag on random stuff. So, I just smiled, nodded and said, “Yeah, the American Captain.” This was the first time I realized that the way Americans express their love of country is very different from other areas of the world. We take patriotism for granted and often don’t think of how to best express it critically. We should be proud of our country and here are three ways to express honor well:
Know Your History
Why are Americans obsessed with their flag? Why are Americans so outspoken about their opinions of government? Why are Americans so interested in only their culture? Some of these answers can be found in knowing our history.
Americans are proud of our flag because it represents our strenuous fight for and successful receipt of independence. Americans are so outspoken because we rightly value our freedom of speech. Americans are interested in our own culture because we’re proud of the advancements that America has provided the rest of the world.
These are all good things, but they’re often expressed poorly. Skimpy American flag apparel is only sexualizing the wearer and the flag, which isn’t patriotism. Hostility towards the government doesn’t help build trust in leadership and is not patriotism. Lack of interest in other countries does not create a good reputation and isn’t patriotism. Knowing your history helps you understand why patriotism is expressed the way it is in America. Knowing your history also helps you understand why the way it’s often expressed isn’t always good or helpful.
Respect and Pray for Politicians
Maybe you strongly disagree with the way our government operates and find yourself frustrated by corruption in politics. Maybe you have a passion or interest in government so you’re more critical of those who hold office than others. Or, perhaps you’re trying to wade through the sea of strongly worded opinions from your family, friends and teachers and you really don’t know what to think. Wherever you stand, you need to understand that your local, state and national politicians have a very difficult job and they need some respect. You can disagree with someone respectfully. When you do, you’re not only setting a good example but you’re providing a positive representation.
We take for granted that we have freedom of speech and if we want, we can bash the government with little to no repercussions. However, in other cultures, bashing your governments is looked down on, or even punishable. My older sister is a missionary in Albania. When talking to native Albanians, she keeps her opinions about our government, and the American President to herself. If she shows disregard for her leaders, she’ll be discredited and her witness will be tarnished. The Bible actually says to pray for your nation’s leaders. Of course you can disagree with politicians and you have a right to be frustrated with your country, but there are more positive ways to show that disagreement. Signing petitions, calling your senator and keeping up with local government are all affirmative, effective, respectful ways to be patriotic.
Americans want to be the best of the best. We’re incredibly proud of our history and the advances we’ve made. However, this blessing has its downside. Because Americans like the idea of being an “All-American” we often disrespect other cultures and/or decline learning and experiencing anything outside of the United States. America is composed of many different people from various walks of life and different cultures. Learning about other country’s advances and uniqueness doesn’t make us less American. In fact, trying new food, learning a different language and reading another country’s history is a relevant way to be patriotic.
Patriotism is a blessing. Expressing it well sets you apart and is beneficial to those around you. This Fourth of July, we want to see your patriotism! Tag us in your Instagram photos and we will regram you on our account. Or, tweet to us and we’ll retweet you. Let’s celebrate our country together!