Patriotism is an urge that I attempt to nurture within myself every day. It is what drives my emotions when I join in singing the national anthem during a baseball game, or when I hold a door open at work for a lady who has her hands full, or when someone cuts me off on the freeway and I don't honk my horn and make unnecessary hand gestures to communicate my frusteration. I do not believe that patriotism must be defined by flag-waving or marching bands. The men and women who don uniforms to fight for our country and the divine rights she claims to guaranty for us all... they are the truly patriotic ones.
And yet, there are other, more quiet folks who wear their love for the United States on their sleeves. Aid workers and organ donors, the guy who tours high school campuses to register newly-18-year-old voters, open-minded college professors, self-defense teachers, anonymous hotline volunteers, parents, little league coaches and entrepreneurs.
A lot has been said about the immigration debate here in the United States. No matter what happens, millions of people will be affected, perhaps negatively. But I have hope.
Even when issues like this one flare up on the grand scale, and even when they spark smaller controversies nation-wide, what patriotism really ought to boil down to is a humble gratitude and a truly Christian blend of compassion and forgiveness. That was the original message behind patriotism.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!!
Our country would not be, simply would not exist, had it not been for immigration. We are all the descendents of immigrants. Even in my family. On my dad's side we can trace our roots back ten or twelve generations in the U.S. But that thirteenth generation, the first Pancoast to set foot on American soil, was a British citizen. Just like every other immigrant, he came here looking for something. Maybe money, maybe power, maybe the simple freedoms our constitution provided, maybe the beauty of our natural wonders, maybe free enterprise.
Whatever the case, those who immigrate come looking for something better. We tout ours as the greatest country in the world! We are the strongest, the richest, the proudest. We have so much. How on earth can we be surprised when so many people want to come here? Or, if we aren't surprised by the desire, we're floored by the number who ignore our flimsy immigration laws and policies and cross our poorly defended borders illegally.
I have an appreciation for the journey some of these people undertake in order to grasp the flapping coattails of the American dream. Hundreds of miles with almost nothing to sustain them on the journey. Parents drag their oblivious children across the border or onto shore in the dead of night because, they think, as all parents think, there is a chance for our children to have something better!
That being said, even America has her limit. We must restrict ourselves lest we become waterlogged. Unless we look out for ourselves, how can we possibly aid anyone else? So we man our borders or build a wall. We send illegal immigrants back where they came from. But must we turn this into the sickeningly derisive battle it seems to be becoming?
Let us be loyal to our country, certainly. But first, let us be loyal to mankind. Let us, as Americans who can absolutely afford to be, compassionate. Considerate. Stern and law abiding for our own sake, but kind because every person who braves death to sneak into the United States is still a person. He has a soul. She has a family. It is not for us to be mean hearted about the need to deny them entry. Rather, it is for us to set an example of strength and decency.
Today I am feeling patriotic, as I do every day. More than that, though, I feel lucky. I live in a land where I am free to post this blog for the world to see, brandishing a personal viewpoint like a sword or a flag. I have no desire to leave the United States in search of more freedoms, more chances. But I was fortunate enough to be born here.
At some point, though, one of my ancestors looked around his or her foreign town. And then he or she said aloud, "I've heard of a land of milk and honey. In this land are many chances. For the sake of myself, for the sake of all those I love, I will sacrifice much, perhaps everything, to find and settle in that land."
Before we point fingers or draw lines in the sand, we must first remember our beginning. Our beginning. Our power lies within our muddled bloodlines, our murky heritage. And it was not only the brightest minds or the rich or the powerful who journeyed here. It was the weak, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse. We asked them to come. We came. We thrived. Now it is up to us sustain a country that is strong enough to continue that compassionate and time-honored tradition.