It seems that everywhere you turn on the internet, someone is calling himself a “patriot.” There are patriots, patriot groups, patriotic sentiments, patriotic language, and the list goes on.
But are all of these “patriots” operating from the same definition of the word? Does it even matter?
Words do matter. The more complacent we become about the use of the English language, the easier it becomes for the opportunists and the more devious among us to subtly (or not so subtly) hijack the language to suit their own nefarious purposes.
This can lead to very dangerous and/or counterproductive results. Take the co-opting of the Tea Party movement by the establishment as an example. Because most will consider the “Tea Party” movement as patriotic on faith (thanks to clever marketing), little to no research or investigation is done before carrying the banner, or doing work on behalf of, any group labeled “Tea Party.” While the sentiment of those following groups like this is well-intentioned, it does not absolve us of the responsibility to “think before we act” to ensure our efforts are truly constructive and effective.
So for this reason (among others), I am placing a stake in the ground to define how I evaluate whether someone or something is “patriotic.”
Let’s start with Webster’s definition:
A person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.
There is a lot to digest in that definition dating back nearly 200 years.
“A person who loves his country…”
When he used the word “country,” is Webster speaking of a chunk of land, a government, a people, or some combination of the three?
Digging into some of Webster’s definitions of “country” and using the context from the remainder of his definition of “patriot”, I believe the following definitions fit best:
- “The kingdom , state or territory in which one is born; the land of nativity; or the particular district indefinitely in which one is born.” (as it applies to natural-born citizens)
- “a region of permanent habitation“ (as it applies to naturalized citizens)
We can see that Webster is not speaking about government when he refers to “country”. He is clearly referring to a political jurisdiction that also includes a geographic boundary.
But how are the geographical boundaries of that land determined? Well, in the case of our country the geographical boundaries are derived from the original thirteen states who “form[ed] a more perfect union” and the various annexations since then that are pursuant to Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution which is the basis for our political jurisdiction.
But what is a country without its people?
Merely a swath of land. Therefore, a patriot who “loves his country” by inference loves his fellow citizens as part of that country. To substantiate this assertion, let’s look at the case of veterans of our armed forces. Each of them volunteers to make the ultimate sacrifice, if needed, to defend his “country”. God-given common-sense tells us that they don’t do this merely for the land, but for their loved ones who inhabit the land, and the pursuit of their livelihoods to support these loved ones once their noble service to our country is concluded.
By the way, in order for anyone to enlist or be commissioned as an officer in the armed forces of the United States, they are required to affirm that they will “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
Continuing with Webster’s definition of “patriot”…
“…and zealously supports and defends it…”
The word “zealously”, in my opinion, is one of the two major distinctions that I believe are lost in the current, myriad, and tepid interpretations of the word “patriot.”
According to Webster, zealously is defined as “with passionate ardor; with eagerness.”
In no interpretation of the word “zealously” is one left believing it can be demonstrated passively. To be “zealous” about something requires active and enthusiastic work (or “animated” as Webster also describes the word “passionate“).
Isn’t it interesting that to define the activities of a patriot, Webster uses some of the same words that have been used since 1789 to codify our oaths of office pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “support” and “defend”. In fact, the very first section of the very first Act of Congress was to establish this oath. This is no coincidence.
It seems that all roads lead back to the Constitution–the nexus of those characteristics that define a patriot in the United States of America.
Clearly, to our Founding Fathers and Framers of our Constitutional Republic, the acts of “supporting and defending” the Constitution as written and with their intent, was of paramount importance. After all, the Constitution cannot defend itself.
Finally: “…and its interests.”
This means “in the interests of the country”. Again, since a chunk of land cannot have interests, the implication is that a patriot supports and defends the interests of the citizens of the country. This is distinct from the interests of a government or a political party. Because our government’s scope is limited to enumerated powers (authority) by the Constitution, there can be many situations that a patriot must support and defend that will fall outside of this scope. This concept is summed up by the phrase “America First” but includes the principles of “Allegiance and Protection” and federalism.
So far the characteristics that define a patriot are:
- Citizenship–A citizen of the United States who:
- Activity–will actively and passionately support and defend:
- the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic, and
- the interests of his fellow citizens ahead of any other nation’s interests thereby demonstrating his love for his countrymen.
- Activity–will actively and passionately support and defend:
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
So what does it mean to “support and defend” the Constitution?
This is the second major distinction between the common use of the word patriot, and my understanding of the effective definition.
Again from Webster’s 1828 definition: “Support – To vindicate; to maintain; to defend successfully; as, to be able to support one’s own cause.”
A “patriot” cannot passively sit by as the Constitution is attacked, undermined, usurped, infringed upon, or directly violated and still claim to be supporting it. It is not enough to be mad about it. But this begs the question: “how will one know if this is happening?”
There is a two-part answer:
- A patriot must pay attention to politics in order to know something is afoot
- A patriot must know and understand the Constitution to determine if it is in jeopardy
And once a patriot becomes aware of such an attack on his Constitution, by his oath of allegiance, he is committed to a course of defending it until such time as the threat or violation is neutralized.
This is a significant undertaking, but we were warned by Thomas Paine who said:
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. “
So be very careful when calling yourself a “patriot” for you will have committed to a course that will last your entire lifetime.
Truth be told, all who pledge allegiance to our Republic are duty-bound to “support and defend” it, but by proclaiming to the world you are a patriot, you receive a double-dose of scrutiny.
But while this is a heavy burden to bear, you do not have to do it alone. Working together with other patriots in an organized, common direction and aligned to the same strategy makes for more effective use of our time in “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
Visit http://www.PatriotCoalition.org/join-us to learn more.