I don’t know if it’s just me, my entire generation or maybe just the others who took that world lit class with me in college, but the word “patriotic” seems to be losing its positive connotation. At least in my own head, I often equate it with “obnoxious,” “prideful,” “quick to defend and/or fight.” But thinking about this July 4th and this blog and my recent experiences, I’ve realized I’m probably more patriotic than I think. And that’s ok with me because I’ve redefined it for myself.
Last weekend, I visited Texas for a friend’s wedding. Texas is where I’m from. I lived there from age 1.5 to 22. While in town, I got to spend time with friends who either live outside Texas now or did for a few years and have since moved back. We all agreed the time we are most patriotic about our own state (If you’re confused by the idea of being patriotic about your own state, visit Texas. You’ll understand almost immediately.) is when we are not living there.
This does not mean we parade around our new states wearing Texas-shaped sunglasses (Yes, they exist. Again, just visit and you’ll understand.) and reciting the Texas pledge of allegiance (yep). For me, it means Texas feels a little warmer, a little sunnier and friendlier here in Tennessee where I currently reside than it ever did when I was living in Texas.
This happened to me in regards to the U.S. while living in England. I tried to not draw too much attention to my Americanness–apparently the entire world does not consider the U.S. the greatest invention of all time–but inside me I finally realized what I loved about the country I came from. At the same time, or maybe a few months later, I began to understand that just as I loved the little things that made up the big thing that was my country that was home, so did my English neighbors love the little things that were the big thing that was their home that they graciously shared with me for a brief moment.
I became more internally patriotic by becoming more understanding of others’ patriotism. Feeling patriotic fills, at least momentarily, that universal desire for a home. Since we all yearn for a place of belonging and a sense of self, we are all patriotic.
So my fellow Americans, whether you like the sound of that word or not, today we will be patriotic because today we celebrate home.