How to be a patriot

Megan Sweas| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Tomorrow is Patriot Day, the day we commemorate September 11 and its victims. The name of "Patriot Day" to mark 9/11 has me thinking about what it means to be a patriotic American in today's world.

Our Independence Day makes me think of freedom and the rights of the individual within a democracy. Patriot Day, meanwhile, makes me think of solidarity with and pride for one's community and country. The balance between these two--rights and responsibility, independence and solidarity, individual and community--is an amazing aspect of our country. It also is echoed in Catholic social teaching and the teaching of other faiths.

This balance is particularly important to remember this season. Rosh Hashanah started sunset Wednesday (also the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and the Jewish High Holy Days continue until Yom Kippur on Sept. 18. Last night's sunset market the beginning of Eid-al-Fitr, the three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, we have a fringe church threatening to burn Qur'ans, debates about a Muslim community center, and in less reported news, the folks from Westboro Baptist Church in Chicago suburbs to protest Rosh Hashanah. (The link is from a Northwestern University publication, but they also showed up to other Skokie and Evanston locations.)

As we celebrate Patriot Day this year, we can't let patriotism outweigh independence as it did in the immediate aftermath of September 11. We protect the right for people to celebrate their holy days, build mosques, burn Qur'ans, and even protest against all of these things.

To be a patriot means to stand with Americans in all their diversity, such as New York Neighbors for American Values are doing tonight or the Northwestern students counterprotesting WBC did the other day. It means allowing for individuality and uniqueness but also gathering together for dialogue.

Eid Mubarak to our Muslim neighbors. (Take a look at this website to get to know some American Muslims.)

L'shanah tovah to our Jewish neighbors.

Happy Birthday, Mary.

And God bless all Americans, especially the families of September 11 victims.