What does it mean to be Patriotic?

Like most of my generation, I was introduced to national politics during the 2016 presidential campaign. Unlike most of my generation, who were disappointed by the results of the election, I was not discouraged by politics because I had come to understand that politics is not necessarily a zero-sum game. It is more than just campaign strategies, media coverage, and partisan divisions. Patriotism—in the most fundamental sense—is about raising awareness of societal wants and needs, and active participation in trying to change the world for the better.

The writer Verlyn Klinkenborg once wrote: “Studying the humanities should be like standing among colleagues and students on the open deck of a ship moving along the endless coastline of human experience.” I believe the same can be said about patriotism. Different political debates and political points of views have taught me the the value in listening to different opinions from different viewpoints. Open discussion invites instant reassessment and reflection of one’s own core values and beliefs. To be patriotic is to be constantly questioning one’s beliefs- to be skeptical and to gain a sense of independence separate from what the media and the people around you purport.

For the most part, our national conversation has regressed to shouting matches on social media. I enjoy listening to and participating in arguments based on substance and reasoning—not on Straw Man and Ad hominem fallacies or cognitive biases. To me, patriotism is being able to value the times I went against the grain because it taught me to widen my perspectives and reevaluate my positions. In other words, I learned not to discount the opinions of others, no matter how fallacious and biased I deem them to be. One cannot say his or her view from the open deck is better than someone else’s unless he or she is willing to turn around to take a good look at what someone else is pointing at. Yes, to be patriotic is to be prideful in one’s country, but it is also to be open minded - to consider every point of view.

I want to live in a better world and do my part in making that happen, but I am as ignorant as any other teenager about how the world works. I have an affinity for debate and discussion, and am inclined to political science because of that affinity. As much as there are things we disagree upon, there are equally things for us to find common ground. Patriotism is the means to use the latter to alleviate the former.

Patriotism is seeing the 360° perspective from an “open deck of a ship.” To be patriotic is to be open minded.

Hello, my name is Brian at Delaware Valley High School!

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