Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Fourth of July is good time for patriotism

June 27, 2001

Have you noticed the increase in the movies that deal with overt patriotism?

"The Patriot," "Pearl Harbor," "Saving Private Ryan," "The Thin Red Line" and "Gladiator" are each underlined with patriotic themes.

The muted (and even sometimes blatant) call to patriotism is again being heard across our land. It is good to hear, for a change, the reminders that sometimes we have done something right.

I grew up and spent the first part of my adult years listening to how bad we had become. I admit to a jaded and cynical stance when it comes to American politics. I have seen, and perhaps even been a part of, some of the less noble activities of our government and the people we elect to rule. Yet I am forced to set aside my less than patriotic tendency to really speak of the truth when it comes to our nation.

The founders of our nation were not the wonderful caricatures that I was taught in school. They also were not the blatant self-seeking individuals that the last 25 years of historical writings have tried to present them to be. They were unique, virtuous individuals with the same shortcomings and prejudices that we have today, with one notable exception. History has proven them to be men of greatness, greater even than their times allowed.

At least one writer has shown that the founding fathers were of such greatness they made the conscious decision to provide for longevity of government the world had never seen. It has proven to be the one and only instance of democratic rule that has survived. In all other instances of revolution since the time of the founding of the Roman Republic, one individual rose to power and ended the democratic rule that was the intention of the revolution. From Napoleon to Ho Chi Minh, each attempt to found a government for the people deteriorated into totalitarianism. Not so in the United States.

The men (with the influence of a few notable women) who forged the Republican form of government that is currently ours, made sure there was enough looseness in it so that we could still be using it 200 years later. They purposely made decisions that kept them from ever being in the position of being the final say in the government. Most of them went broke in the process.

As we get ready to celebrate our nation's birthday next week, it would be good if we took a little time to think about what that commitment means to us now.

No matter what we think of our leadership, we elected them. In theory at least, they are responsive to our wishes. With the exception of the Civil War, which could be seen as the final test of the Constitution, we have had no real assault on our form of government. Even the turmoil of the Vietnam protests did little more than to change some of the players in the government and not the government itself.

We live in the highest economic conditions of any nation in the world. The things we take for granted are so numerous that it would take days to list them, should any group of people try. We have freedom of movement, technological choices, medical care of high order and abundance beyond belief. We can speak our mind publicly, even against the government, as long as it does not necessary advocate overthrow. We are blessed.

Patriotism should never be that "my country right or wrong" sort of mentality. It should be a commitment to the welfare of the nation as a whole that demands that we celebrate the good that is here while never turning a blind eye to that which should be changed. It is the sort of attitude that allows for greatness in a nation or a community.

As we celebrate next week, take some time to identify those living or dead who have shown a spark of that greatness here in Baldwin City. We might all find that they will challenge us to try to emulate their behavior and spend of ourselves in an even larger fashion to make our town the best it can be.

Monte the Dancing Bear growling a bit in the heat, but dancing still. Baldwin City Recreation Commission: 820 High Street; Phone, 594-3670; e-mail,

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