On June 6, 1944, U.S. forces joined with other countries to stand up to the tyranny of Germany’s dictator who squelched its dissenting citizens and forged the extermination of various religions and nationalities. We honored these heroes for fighting against oppression and injustice. Standing up for those principles is the patriotic reason why our military today pledges its allegiance to our country.
But now, the word “patriot” is being used in a different way. The right wing supremacy and neo-Nazi groups call themselves “patriots.” These vigilante militia are organizing and stockpiling weapons for a civil war against Americans who have a different skin color, language, religion or culture. These groups are some of President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters.
The president speaks of patriotism, but his actions don’t reflect an understanding of its true meaning. He justifies hatred toward “the other” by saying immigrants are ruining our country, football players shouldn’t take a knee to protest police brutality against black people and any media critical of him are the “enemy of the people.” Military war criminals have been pardoned, and active-duty troops were requested to quell protests even among fellow peaceful citizens.
I don’t believe these actions are indicative of being a patriot. Loving your country means loving the diversity at the root of who we are. Loving the flag means honoring its symbolism of a government that supports respect for differing viewpoints. Loving democracy means exercising rights while considering the well-being of others.
A staggering number of U.S. military personnel have died to promote democracy and diplomacy around the world. It’s shocking that our president betrays those sacrifices when he chooses to jeopardize ties with our allies by criticizing NATO, WHO, the United Nations and world leaders.
Now our country is expressing the frustration often felt by other nations when injustice is ignored. It’s our moment in history to recommit to the basic tenet that democracy works when all voices are heard. This will only happen when our president stops trying to show “dominance” over the protestors, which was the exact crime of the police officer who murdered George Floyd.
The collateral protest damage is unfortunate but not as unfortunate as loss of life. The president must stand with the peaceful majority in the fight for equal respect for all races and creeds. That is the true conviction of U.S. patriotism conveyed by our courageous troops throughout history.