On December 8, 1941, the day after Japanese forces attacked the American military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress and asked for a Declaration of War against Japan. There was no school that day, as the people huddled around their radios and listened to this father figure at a time of national crisis. World War II had begun.
The next morning, the lines at each and every draft board were non-ending. Men, young and middle-aged, were impatient to enlist. Patriotism was oxygen. The citizenry were unconditionally united. Political divisions had vanished. Strangers were now brothers. The enemy was the only foe.
In 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy stunned the nation into a week of national mourning. Everyone was glued to television, and watched, in horror, as Lee Harvey Oswald, having been arrested for the President's murder, was, himself, gunned down by Jack Ruby, on live T.V. Talk about reality shows. And again, in this period of national mourning, the country stood as one.
September 11, 2001. A series of four coordinated attacks upon the United States, in New York City and Washington, D.C., as the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terror. On that day, and on all anniversaries, the American people, never forgetting, come together. Political party affiliations are discarded. We are all neighbors. Tea Party signs are nowhere to be seen. The country is united. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.
But, in the interim periods, we tend to loosen the grips of hands held, and return to focusing on things that differentiate and make us antagonists. It's not that we forget, but rather that we expose our human frailties by looking at life with blinders on. Mutual respect loosens its belt a notch. Political discussions become acerbic again. Hibernating problems of life's pressures awaken and take hold, as party lines reassert themselves. The sounds of patriotism morph into the sounds of silence.
Why must this be? Why can't we schedule events to not just remember tragedies of the past, but to also rekindle the spark of patriotism which they engender? And when that spirit materializes, grab it, lock it up and hold onto it. We can change attitudes, by starting with ourselves and mingling with others. It's a positive process which is contagious. Ever once in a while, let us put aside our everyday problems of life and revive the aura of brother and sisterhood.
Public unity is held together by a band which can be stretched but never broken. It materializes when people rise, at sporting events, and our national anthem is played. Players and fans sing and stand close together. It becomes tangible when we approach a serviceman and thank him for his service or greet him with a "God bless you." Patriotism brings people together. Let's keep it alive and positioned in the forefront of life's agenda.
Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and humanity. Patriotism consists not in waiving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.
How about a yearly injection of patriotism?
It would make the States more United.