Column: Patriotism beyond tokens

By Jenette Sturges

As this Sunday passed, what did you do? Did you listen to the president’s speech? Did you proclaim your patriotism with a magnetic ribbon on your car? Did you hang the flag? It seems as though the spike in patriotism has done little for our divided country. Maybe I’m being a pessimist, but it seems to me like times are starting to get tough. With rising inflation, crazy wars and a loss of civil liberties, the only way we’re going to get through is by working together and doing more for patriotism than wearing the red, white and blue.

In the past two weeks, we saw one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit U.S. soil. This past Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of one of the most horrible disasters to strike our country. People are marching in the streets across the country in protest of a war that many Americans don’t want to see us fighting, and that even more Americans don’t understand why we’re fighting.

Homosexuals are fighting for civil rights. Women are, yet again, fighting for rights over their bodies. Nobody can afford to drive anywhere. The Supreme Court is in the middle of a huge and scary transition, and all I can do is sit back and gawk. The times are changing, and instead of learning how to deal with the change that is inevitable in the world, it seems as though America has taken to dividing itself in any way that it possibly can – hoping to cling to the days when gas was less than buck fifty, and we weren’t all afraid to walk out of our own door because of a terrorism color-coding system.

Something has changed in the mood of the nation. When the power grid failed New York in 2003, the people of the city slept peacefully outdoors. There was no looting, no rioting and no more homicides that night than the city sees on an average. Two years later, people who have lost everything in the South were subject to murder and rape while waiting for rescuers. America, it seems, has gone mad.

So I propose the following steps for starting off the fourth year of the post-Sept. 11 America. We need to adopt a new meaning for the word patriotism, one that implies cooperation and a coming together of the country, in order to regain sanity and peace (domestically, anyway).

The first step involves peling the camouflage magnetic ribbon off the back of your SUV, selling the gas-guzzler and purchasing a compact Saturn. Then, instead of wearing your support for the troops on your trunk, try writing them a letter or sending them cookies. (No chocolate: it melts en route.) By doing so, you’ll have saved our precious oil resources and let the troops know that you support them on a personal, not idealistic, level.

Donate money to the hurricane effort. Then match donations to tsunami relief, which is still ongoing. Striking a balance between domestic and overseas spending for disasters is only going to help our image on the world stage in the long run. Purchase an American-made product. Protest something. It’s your right, and it’s the way positive change is made.

Finally, I urge you to volunteer. Raising money for hurricane victims, volunteering time at a shelter, or training with the Red Cross are good options. You might even consider a stint with AmeriCorps for two years after college. Not only does this give you experience in the working world, but you’re also providing a service to your country.

Patriotism is more than can be contained on a ribbon-shaped magnet. It is a love and respect for your country and the people in it. It can be displayed in much more meaningful ways than just waving a flag.