Patriotism is more than a slogan |

Patriotism is more than a slogan

Heather Lemon
Vail CO, Colorado

I am proud to be an American. It is an honor for me to be an American. You see for me, I had to make a choice ” I did not have the birthright of the 14th Amendment that granted citizenship to the slaves in 1868. My parents also naturalized, on their own application and became citizens on July 4, 1976. For them, it was a privilege to be naturalized on the bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

Now some believe that citizenship by right of birth should be revoked. By some standard or measure, those being born in the U.S. now are not “American” enough.

People must be “qualified,” have sufficient points ” by that some mean, multiple doctoral degrees ” before they are eligible for citizenship. There is a movement to make English the official language. There is a stated need to protect our “American way of life” ” keep out the riffraff, build fortress America.

Somehow, wearing Border Patrol hats and red, white, and blue qualifies someone to be called a patriot, an American. And “God save you, foreigner, if you are not like me” is the message being broadcast loud and clear. All of this is justified by the overarching mantra that we are at war.

I do not intend to debate the reality of that war, or the way to conduct global conflict. That is for a different time and space.

The United States was founded on liberty and freedom. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed . . . with . . . unalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” ” 1776, Declaration of Independence.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, . . . secure the Blessing of Liberty . . .” 1787, U.S. Constitution.

“Four score and seven years ago, . . . conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . . . that these dead shall not have died in vain, . . . that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom. . .” Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

The strength of the United States, the uniqueness of this country, and the future of our nation are tied inexorably in the freedoms we have as Americans. We are free to speak our mind, to debate, to write, to express our views without fear of reprisal or what is politically correct. We are free to worship or not worship without looking over our shoulder. We are free to assemble without restriction. We are free to pursue our dreams, to build our homes, to own land outright in a free-market system that encourages creativity, and individualism. And our uniqueness is founded on our diversity ” no other nation has the depth and breadth of nationalities that make up “Americans.”

But when we are cowed into isolationism, homogenous-ness, and restriction-ism, we lose some of those freedoms and liberties that in fact we hold as sacred. When the enemies of freedom force us to deny basic rights such as habeas corpus or right to counsel to any person then we as Americans lose.

On the Statute of Liberty is inscribed the Emma Lazarus poem, “New Colossus.” We all know the lines, “give me your tired, your poor . . .” But the other parts of the sonnet are just as interesting. “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs . . .” ” the original Colossus was built as a tribute to military victory. The Statute of Liberty celebrates a far different triumph. The poem clearly states the “huddled masses yearning to be free.”

We are losing the ability to debate. Congress is paralyzed by partisan vitriolic ” opposition is personal. And we are losing our freedoms.

I might disagree with you about your view on immigration, or welfare, or education or county child-care funding, but I will absolutely defend your right to express your view and carry your rifle. Being American is not about the trappings surrounding our celebration of our independence. It is not how patriotically we stand, or sing the national anthem at baseball games. Being American is incorporated in our freedoms. This Fourth of July, I will wear my American flag scarf, and red, white and blue. It is an honor for me to be an American.

Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at

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