On July 4, 2008. the nationally heard Tavis Smiley Radio Show profiled me in its patriotism special that was part of the informative My America 2008 series.
And while I was honored by this well done profile, I was concerned about how one of my aired comments might have been perceived, since I did elaborate with disqualifiers during the 3.5 hour interview. My extra thoughts might have been edited or the producer, Jeff Jones, wasn't recording at the time.
Also, there was much more about "being patriotic and patriotism in America" that I discussed with Jeff Jones. Nor could everything on this subject and others be included for airing ... as Jeff and the staff of Sheryl Flowers, executive producer of the Tavis Smiley Radio Show, had to edit mix my comments into the 6.5 minute profile. It is completely understandable too.
Well, the comment heard was... "I think every American is patriotic."
My first thoughts when hearing it were...
"Hmmm! Why wasn't the rest of what I said played or was it edited? ... Oh boy, with just that statement listeners might conclude that I think those Americans ... who hate our country are patriotic."
So, I want to state categorically that... I don't!
In fact, I thought I said... "I think every American who loves the USA is patriotic."
Anyway, it is what I meant. It sure would have eliminated the need to explain that I did state this during the interview. Moreover, I sincerely believe that ... one must first love the USA before loyalty and inspiration can occur. How can it be otherwise if hate is the alternative? Nor do I intend to talk about varying degrees of both, as common sense should rule here.
Okay, now about what else was covered in the unheard part of the interview.
While I don't condone or like it ... I will defend fellow citizens' right to "legally" express their dislike or hatred of the flag, other national symbols, and even the USA. Nor do I believe that expressing oneself this way is "being patriotic" or an act of patriotism ... which I believe involves exemplifying / fostering "love and pride" of America! Now, they might just love the USA differently. But how and why?
Then there is the anger that I have towards those who purposely say or do something that disrespects our brave troops ... regardless if they are in harm's way overseas or stationed in our beloved USA. Being a father of a son who served with the Marines in Iraq during 2003 hasn't changed how I feel either ... I just listen much closer to what is being said ... especially by our elected officials in Washington, DC and the media.
I even mentioned to Jeff Jones about perception significantly influencing one's thoughts relative to being patriotic and expressing patriotism ... which is the case for anyone in the media spotlight including politicians. What one does or doesn't do ... in what is perceived by most Americans to be a patriotic situation can be a permanent impression of the individual's patriotism or lack of it.
Nor can a negative perception be easily overcome (if at all) ... depending on how strong the reaction is, as it might be too contrary to a core feeling / belief. And even if there is a sound explanation, I suspect the perception for most will remain quite strong ... wondering why did it happen in the first place?
It is also why I have a problem with politicians who use patriotic intent and express patriotism for "political purposes". Just wanting to serve one's fellow citizens as an elected official indicates to me a strong love and pride of America. So, it should never be about proving how patriotic one is during an election campaign ... And if one chooses to do so for whatever reason, negative perception by a majority of voters is a potential risk that might never be known until after the election. This under the polling radar could be the difference in who wins, as well ... meaning marginally different discrepancy between the vote count and the polling data.
Admittedly, the devastating terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 awakened deeply rooted feelings towards the USA for most Americans including me. (I too would have gladly forgone this awakening to avert what did occur.) Then Hurricanes Katrina and Rita renewed this national show of patriotic pride, which many also expressed with charitable donations and volunteerism.
Yet, this national outward display of patriotism has diminished even though we have troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan along with the real possibility of another 911 like attack or even worse. And while there are many factors for the dampening of this wonderful national patriotic fervor, the national media along with the political process in Washington have played a part. (You can be your own judge on how much.)
As for me ... my "patriotic feelings" will continue to remain strongly on the surface through my involvement with USA Patriotism! and elsewhere. And the same can be said for many other Americans involved in their own efforts. (There are a few who I have had the honor of meeting too.) Others have also contributed patriotic poems, songs, videos, stories, articles, and more to USA Patriotism! ... which are all heartfelt acts of patriotism.