Hi. My Name Is Erin, And I AM A Patriot

I have never considered myself a patriot.

I have never served in the armed forces. I have never served as a lawmaker, or heck, even a volunteer.

I thought patriots died for America, they lost their homes or sacrificed their sons. I thought they did what was asked when the United States was in need and always stood by her side.

Those people are why I never once considered myself even close to a “patriot.” Sure I have a loyalty to my country, but I also question her. While it may be one of the things that makes this country great, it was always one of the things I thought disqualified me to really be patriotic.

Guess I was buying the spin too.

Senator Barack Obama spoke of patriotism this week in Independence, MO.

“Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America’s traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.

Given the enormous challenges that lie before us, we can no longer afford these sorts of divisions. None of us expect that arguments about patriotism will, or should, vanish entirely; after all, when we argue about patriotism, we are arguing about who we are as a country, and more importantly, who we should be. But surely we can agree that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism. And surely we can arrive at a definition of patriotism that, however rough and imperfect, captures the best of America’s common spirit.”

The Senator has a point. While I never fully bought into those views, I also never publicly would call myself a “patriot.”

Then, on the heels of this speech, my husband said to me, “Erin, anyone who follows politics with a passion, who loves this country enough to constantly seek out information, and be passionate as to find out what is happening, wants to have a hand in where this country is going, and truly CARES, is a patriot.”

I thought of all the hours I spent following politics. The loss of time with my children as I work to bring information via blogging.

I am a patriot?

In his speech, Senator Obama made reference to the war in Iraq and those opposing the administration being “unpatriotic.” Of course my ears perked up, he was talking to me.

Then everything took an unexpected turn when the Senator said “…and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.”

I was prepared for the part defending ME, as I have been against the war from day one and heard ALL about what a bad American I was. The curve-ball that made me sit up in my chair, was the vague mention of MoveOn.org.

Tennessee Guerilla Women
writes, “Ahem, would anyone like to venture a guess as to why Barack Obama saved his criticism of Move On until after the Democratic primary? And how many millions did Move On raise and spend on Barack Obama’s behalf anyway?”

StereoHyped says, “Obama’s aides say he’s keeping up the patriotism theme all week. However, its strongly doubtful his words will have much impact with certain segments of the population until he does something drastic, like bleach his skin or reject and denounce his blackness..”

WakeUpAmericans says, “…this came as a complete shock to see him rebuke them for it now…then again, he has won the presumptive nominee status so he really doesn’t need MoveOn as much as he needs the Independents and Moderates and he may just be sick and tired of them trying to push him around about his FISA…”

Honestly though, I think this just another reminder by the Senator that we can rise above the fray and find more constructive ways to deal with disagreement than name calling.

In a week where General Wesley Clark’s feet are to the fire over comments he made about Senator John McCain, it seems to me Senator Obama isn’t necessarily disagreeing with the message, but the tone and approach of the messenger.

If I can, for the very first time, publicly call myself a patriot- I would like to think I can do so without those taunts of “but you are not for the war!” and “how dare you call yourself that as our men and women stand in harms way and you refuse to support their efforts!”

However the Senator is right, and felt the need to give an entire speech on the subject this holiday week. He would be remiss to NOT hold accountable those of us so quick to decry our accusers while we call names at the other side.

I am a patriot.

Despite a brother-in-law fighting in Iraq, despite a yellow ribbon in front of my home, I still feel the need to defend my patriotism. Senator Obama felt a need to defend his.

Do you?

Get home safe

Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog

Cross posted at BlogHer.com


  1. I think if Move On gets all offended all of the time when challenged than they become no better than the ones they challenge all of the time! There’s no place for personal ego in patriotism/politics. It is self defeating and childish. Your husband sounds very wise- anyone who is involved, takes time and energy to fight for what is the most ethical and wise course for their country is a patriot. I like what Obama said- he is thoughtful and inclusive it seems to me. If Move On is upset then I worry about the health of that organization and that’s too bad because I’ve liked their premise.

  2. This is my favorite part of his speech:

    “Of course, precisely because America isn’t perfect, precisely because our ideals constantly demand more from us, patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy. As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that’s occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.”

    I actually listened to him and felt like one day soon I may actually be comfortable reciting the Pledge of Allegiance again.

  3. According to Dictionary.com one definition of Patriot is “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.” You my friend are the epitome of that.

  4. i’m usually lurking around here but i had to stop by and say, Erin, you ROCK. this was a great post, and i think you *definitely*

  5. …oops, sorry about that…

    to continue….you *definitely* qualify as a patriot, and thanks for reminding us all that we do too! i do sometimes feel outside the “patriot club” and this was a great reminder.

  6. I think the word patriot is a big word that includes many kinds of people, including those that question their government and challenge it to be better. The word is big enough for people who question more of the time and people who support more of the time, the country works best with some of both. I love that Obama’s speech recognized that. It is so much easier to write a speech about the one-dimensional, easily-digestible versions of big words. I get pretty excited when the national conversation goes beyond that.

  7. Just a tangent, but I have to admit that I supported Wesley Clark’s political aspirations a few years ago–I really thought he was a good hope for the Dems at the time. He’s also from Arkansas…my point being, what’s in the water down here? I think you need to move here for a while, then maybe YOU can run for president! A chicken in every pot, a #suckit on every laptop. GO ERIN.

  8. He would be remiss to NOT hold accountable those of us so quick to decry our accusers while we call names at the other side.

    Thank you! You have no idea what that means to me. I’ve said many times before how ridiculous it is that those who preach tolerance often display so little of it themselves.

  9. “He would be remiss to NOT hold accountable those of us so quick to decry our accusers while we call names at the other side.”

    Thank you! You have no idea what that means to me. I’ve said many times before how ridiculous it is that those who preach tolerance often display so little of it themselves.

  10. Lauren Horsley says:

    Mothergoosemouse’s comment is interesting to me. I definitely feel that someone who makes an ignorant statement like “Republicans are stupid” or blogs about how their children shouldn’t be in a room with Republicans for too long would fall very clearly into the category of “…those who preach tolerance often display so little of it themselves.” Why can’t we, as passionate political participants, disagree without hating eachother for it? Why is the mud-slinging necessary?


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