ValueSpeak - A Weekly Column by Joseph Walker
WHAT IS A PATRIOT?
It was football season, about 20 years ago. My then-8-year-old daughter Andrea and I were watching the Sunday night news, which included a report of the day's NFL highlights.
the Jets cruise past the Patriots, 34-7.
"Daddy," Andrea interrupted, "what are patriots?"
"It's a football team, honey," I replied, absently. "Sort of."
"I know that," she said. "But what does it stand for?"
"The way they're playing these days, not much."
Obviously, Andrea wasn't much on sports humor.
"OK," I said. "A patriot was, you know, like in the days of the Revolutionary War. People who really loved their country, like George Washington, the Minute Men and stuff."
That was that, I thought, and I returned to the football highlights until . . .
"Daddy, what happened to the patriots?"
"I don't know,” I said. “A bad trade, a couple of injuries, some lousy draft picks . . . "
"No, I mean the patriots who lived with George Washington. What happened to them?"
"Well," I said, "they won the war, they established a great nation and then they all died."
"Oh," Andrea said. "So patriots are kind of like dinosaurs, and they're extinct now?"
I was losing ground here. But what was I supposed to say? Patriotism hasn’t been high on the list of politically correct postures for a few decades. So I turned to the dictionary. A patriot, I told Andrea, is "one who loves his country and supports its authority and interests."
"Oh," Andrea said. "Like the man who lives over by the school who flies his flag almost every day? He told us it's because he's proud to be an American. Is he a patriot?"
"Yes,” I said. “I think you could say so."
what about Mrs. Davis?" my daughter continued. "Last week at church she was teaching us that
"That's `purple mountains majesties' and `fruited' plains,” I said, “and yes, I'm sure she does."
she's a patriot too! And Bryan (the
neighbor in the military) and Rosa (the friend who was working toward
"Chuck?" I asked.
"He always has a flag on his truck antenna," she explained.
"I guess that qualifies him as a patriot," I said.
I know is a patriot," she said, "because everyone I know loves
have told her that there are a lot of people who would be quick to point out
all of the things that are wrong about
"You're right," I said. "We're a whole country of patriots, each in our own way."
"Including those guys?" she asked, gesturing toward the Patriots on the sports report.
"EXCEPT those guys," I said.
(Hey, there's nothing patriotic about losing football games.)
— © Joseph Walker
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