A point of contention in Christian theology is whether salvation comes from works or grace. That is to say, is it sufficient to merely believe, or must one perform good deeds to remain in good favor? What we may call our American civic religion has a similar debate. Are people who visibly signal their love for their country the true patriots, or is it simply what’s in the heart that counts?
The best answer may be that it takes both. Keeping patriotic sentiments to oneself isn’t useful without civic engagement, and waving an American flag is an empty gesture without doing it for the right reasons. There lies a distinction between practicing patriotism and practicing meaningful patriotism. And while we, as purveyors of fine American flags, would never discourage the display of the Stars and Stripes, this act must be informed by positive and constructive actions. Take note of these meaningful ways to show patriotism.
Vote in Every Election
Our presidential election has just come and gone, but there’s more to voting than filling out a ballot once every four years. There are still midterm and off-year elections that get much less attention from the media but are just as important to your everyday life. Educate yourself on candidates in each election, and don’t miss a chance to go to the polls. You must not take your right to vote for granted, and you should recognize that exercising this right at every opportunity is a meaningful act of patriotism. You can participate further by volunteering to work the polls, especially in off years.
Fly a Flag Properly
Look around you—some of the American flags you see flying have no business doing so. They’re tattered, sun-bleached, improperly hoisted, or otherwise unfit to fly. Such a display of the flag can be construed as not only unpatriotic but anti-patriotic. Respect the flag as you fly it by keeping it in good condition and properly disposing of the material when it is time to take it out of service, buying new American flags as necessary. Your local American Legion post usually offers a service in which they will respectfully dispose of worn or damaged flags. Furthermore, observe the Flag Code, which lays out all the dos and don’ts of displaying the flag. Reconsider flying American flag designs that are defaced or recolored.
Honor Our Veterans
“Thank you for your service” has become a cliché, but you can show your gratitude in many ways that go beyond repeating a simple phrase. Volunteer at your local assisted-living facility where you can help the veterans who reside there. If you know a veteran who lives nearby and could use some help around the house, ask what you can do to assist them.
These are just but a few meaningful ways to show patriotism that go beyond simply declaring your love for America. No matter how you choose to constructively display your sentiments, what matters the most is that you do so peacefully, respectfully, and safely. After all, the protection of free speech is the most American virtue of all.
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