I am a Patriot
by Frederick H. Winterberg III
If being a patriot means hanging an American flag from the antenna of
one's car or from the flagpole in front of one's house, then I don't
If being a patriot means standing behind the president, no matter what he
and his administration do, then I guess I'm out on that count too.
If being a patriot is silencing your own opinion because it goes against
what the government is saying, I lose again.
If being a patriot means giving up my civil rights and liberties, then I
guess I'm out of luck.
If being a patriot means supporting the use of torture in questioning
suspects, holding people indefinitely without bail or legal
representation, or holding military tribunals to try "war
criminals" out of the sight of the public and judiciary, then I am the
antithesis of a patriot.
And yet this is what our government is calling for, in the name of
patriotism. Anybody who doesn't get in lockstep behind the president and
embrace what I've outlined above is
considered a traitor, or worse, a terrorist.
In my heart, I know I'm a patriot.
I am a patriot because I dearly love my country and what it purports to
stand for. I love the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness, without interference from the government. I
feel blessed to have grown up in a country with guaranteed basic human
rights, which is so much more than many people in the world receive. I
cherish the right to speak my mind when I
want, where I want, on whatever subject I want, no matter how much it may
go against the beliefs of those around me. And I cherish the right of
other people to do the same, even when
what they say infuriates me. I am grateful for my right to privacy, to be
free from intrusive searches and seizures by the government and police
without a warrant and just cause. I am
thankful for the beauty and splendor of this country's untouched and
undeveloped areas, where the true beauty of nature can still be
experienced and appreciated. And above all, I
appreciate more than anything else the right to live my life as I see
fit, without any government/corporation or religion telling me what I
should and should not, or can and can not do or think.
For these reasons, and many others, I am a patriot.
In the wake of September 11, the government has, with predictable zeal,
gone after the very things that I cherish about my country and that make
it a special place to live. Our rights are
flying out the window at an alarming pace. My privacy can be invaded, my
home searched without reason, the environment and nature are being
bulldozed in the name of profit and oil. I
could possibly even be jailed for writing this piece.
Yet despite what my government says I am still a patriot.
I will not abandon my country by moving to Canada or another country
because I don't like the way this one is being run. I will not stand
silent as my rights are being stripped, even though
to speak out against the government these days is considered treasonous.
I will not "watch what I say, watch what I do", as the President's press
Secretary advised us last month. No, I
will stand and fight for what I believe in. I believe in the constitution
of the United States, and what it stands for. I believe in all the things
I spoke of above that I love and cherish about this
Most of all, I believe patriotism comes from within, from a place deep
inside me. Not from a flag, not from my possessions, not from my $tature
in society or how much power I have over others, not
from getting in line behind those in power because they tell me it's the
right thing to do. To me, it is to stand up and fight for what I believe
is right for myself and my country in the face of
adversity, which is what we are facing now.
And that, in my opinion, is the true definition of a patriot.
November 21, 2001