I grew up in the home of a patriot who did not make a big deal about his military service.
My father did not fondle a flag every time he saw one or wear his patriotism on his sleeve. But he enlisted in the Marines, fought in some of the worst battles in the South Pacific during WWII and was awarded two Purple Hearts.
After being honorably discharged, my father came home, raised a family, respected others, provided for family and extended family, paid his taxes and obeyed the law.
So, the father who raised me, the father I grew up beside, the father I worked beside was the epitome of patriotism. In some ways, he is still the standard by which I measure patriotism.
So, when I hear some radical right winger who stormed the Capitol spoken of as a real “patriot” and those charged with their crimes described as “political prisoners,” frankly, I want to throw up.
Patriotism is not worship. So, what is patriotism in our time?
First, it is a passion and a thirst for a nation to become what it aspired but failed to be from the beginning.
We can shorthand it in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Patriots yearn for all to be free to pursue their goals and dreams and opportunities and are aware that until all are free, none are completely free.
Second, patriotism is seeing and acknowledging the failings and flaws of one’s nation – the lack of equality, justice and opportunity for all – in order to move the nation along to correct those failings and flaws.
Third, patriotism fires a flaming, piercing beacon of hope in this world which will inevitably draw immigrants, refugees and those seeking safety and opportunity.
We know that while we cannot house the entire world within our borders, we can lead the way, by example and initiative, for people to have stable governments of integrity, safety and opportunity.
Fourth, we support the right of all to express their dissatisfaction and concerns, a freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
We also understand that protests happen wherever a person finds leverage and influence to use in an effort to call attention to injustice. A football player taking a knee is not disgraceful; it is a continuation of a long line of protests dating back to the Boston Tea Party.
Fifth, patriotism is a striving for a truly just judicial system – one with equal representation for all and equal justice for all.
Sixth, patriotism is about everyone playing their part to make this nation function for all.
A nation that caters to the ultra-rich, neglects the poor and working poor, and ignores the middle class sows the seeds of its own demise.
Seventh, patriotism is not expressed in the pledge we say, but through the promises we keep both individually and collectively.
Eighth, patriots do not incite rebellion or insurrection.
Patriots do not promote and traffic in hate, or hate speech, or hateful actions. In fact, all of those are the antithesis of patriotism in America.
Ninth, patriots make room for the vast number of people who are not like them.
They provide space for those whose heart language is not their own, all the while giving others a compelling reason to fall in love with this land of opportunity and promise.
We make room for all people – for everyone who comes to our shores with different faith traditions than our own, realizing, once again, that the Bill of Rights grants us all the right to believe, or not believe, as our conscience dictates because the state has no claim on the soul.
Finally, patriotism is being a good neighbor – whether that neighbor is next door, in the next community, in some other state or somewhere else in the world.
Patriotism is no small word, no small thing and no small issue.
It is what binds Americans together and, in being together, we shoulder the burden of moving this nation forward toward liberty and justice for all and making sure that no one is left behind.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma, he recently relocated to Round Rock, Texas, to be closer to family. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.