Eric Conklin - Use this One

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This Sept. 11 made me think about saving patriotism. 

The idea crossed my mind while working to prepare another newspaper. The day wasn't too different, socially distant from others, with an occasional joke, loud laughs, and teeming keyboard clicks circulating the Herald's office. 

Being loyal to our nation has, in my recent recollection, never been discussed and debated as frequently. From giving the Star-Spangled Banner a knee to making ornaments of political flags, folks are questioning their counterparts' fidelity to the U.S. 

Practicing patriotism today calls for stone-hard proof, showing American to be American, ensuring folks have Old Glory on hand at all times, almost like a driver's license to prove their validity. If it’s not present, it's, as a sociologist would say, an informal sanction, a fine to shame someone without hurting their wallet. 

In that proof is the belief that one's daily routine should consist of piledriving social media extravaganzas and political protests. Skipping one would, unfortunately, not be worthy of a true American. 

I'm young, with a lengthy life ahead and various places and people to see, but I've yet to see so many doubt others' loyalty to our land of the free, one nation under God. It's as though society is attempting to ween out the slackers, doubters, and downright wrongdoers.  

I don't recall being patriotic having a rulebook. That seems to be changing given today's political environment and our nation's ongoing debates over the pandemic, social injustice, the economy, and others. 

Patriotism doesn't, and should never, show partisanship. It doesn't survive brutal conditions and exposure to colors that are allowed to divide Americans. It's something universal mankind experiences daily but of which lacks awareness. 

Being patriotic doesn't require loading a house with a store's worth of American flags or require Trump and Biden-themed boats meandering the back bays. It also doesn’t merit shunning those who are still timid about accepting a movement like Black Lives Matter into society. 

Showing love for America is about developing constructive ways to assist the community, like volunteering. Buying lunch locally or shopping from a mom-and-pop shop is also a pleasant addition to the prideful goodie bag everyone metaphorically carries. Most importantly, it’s about treating others with respect instead of letting a Wawa door close in front of someone because, politically, they don't align. 

American patriotism is traveling a path to a Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe-type story, one where those who love its original form fight to rescue it, only to have lifesaving acts falter under negativity until it fades. It's supposed to make Americans happy, not miserable by having the belief be that true loyalty is found in cluttered partisan messages. 

If there's anything of which Sept. 11 should have reminded folks besides the people who succumbed to the worst act of terrorism in history, it's that patriotism is an allegiance not to our country, but one another. Supporting others, loved ones and strangers, is what preserves the American way. With that, pledges to others vehemently pledges love to the nation. 

Hopefully, it won't take until Sept. 11, 2021, to finally make our allegiance's true form become reality. 

ED. NOTE: The author is the editorial assistant at the Cape May County Herald. To contact Conklin, email econklin@cmcherald.com. 

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