With another Presidential Election safely tucked away for four more years, some folks may be relieved to revert once again to their set of typical tasks. But try as we might to return to normalcy, one concept seems to forever trickle into our lives — patriotism.
Are we patriotic enough? Or perhaps the more important question: do we need to be?
I would like to believe that patriotism is just as relevant and essential for continued success in this era, even as we chart a course closer towards becoming a global society. I feel that patriotism, or true admiration and affinity for one’s nation, provides us with something just for ourselves — a unique cord that ties us to our fellow friends and neighbors, weaving us into a rich tapestry of togetherness and hope.
This connecting ribbon of patriotism may become partly frayed by years of disillusionment and partisanship, but it never completely unravels. And thankfully, a handful of statistics seem to coincide with this belief of mine.
A Pew Research Center Values Survey from April found that 52 percent of Americans, in glowing terms, “completely agree” with the statement “I am very patriotic;” and a still strong 36 percent “mostly agree.”
Even more heartening was the Public Religion Research Institute’s Race, Class and Culture Survey conducted in August, which found that 58 percent of Americans regularly exhibit an American flag in their homes, offices, or transportation vehicles.
No doubt, a few folks may be quick to denounce these figures as inflated and assert that some individuals simply masquerade as allegiant and dedicated. But nevertheless, while I will acknowledge the latter claim to a certain extent, I feel it takes only one glimpse of Turlock activity to witness an abundance of wholesome patriotism in action.
For example, consider just how many signs decorated the lawns of private residences these past couple of months in preparation for the various elections. And remember the actual lines of voters waiting outside polling places? To me, being politically aware and involved comprises one of the many forms of patriotism, and once again Turlock has heeded such a call.
I’ll also be so bold to put out that I do not believe the majority of youth, at least in this area, are unpatriotic either, judging by the level of engagement with the political world that I’ve witnessed at Turlock High School this month.
On Election Day, the THS student Philosophy Club voluntarily spent an entire hour after school contemplating the candidates’ policies and what they could signify for the upcoming generation. In addition, some of the school’s educators organized a Mock Election for eligible high school seniors, providing the group with a foretaste of the political process and emphasizing the good judgment necessary to sustain its integrity.
It’s truly refreshing to see such wholehearted immersion, to know that our community truly minds what will become of this nation it so admires and wants to positively shape. Turlock, at least, has remembered that patriotism serves as the very fulcrum of any meaningful collective effort, but how the course is leveled out from this day forth rests on us.
A few weeks ago, I had my personal patriotic pulses activated when I took a brief trip to Angel Island State Park, which is situated in the San Francisco Bay. I had originally gone to experience the scenic bike route, but thanks to the various informative signs that lined it, I quickly learned that Angel Island was actually an early twentieth century immigration station, serving the West akin to how the well-known Ellis Island served immigrants arriving on the East Coast.
And on a small hill overlooking the Pacific waves stood a bench with a beautiful, evocative tribute carefully etched into its backboard: “In memory of Hedi and Ernest Schott, who escaped from Germany to freedom in 1940. Thank you, America.”
As that last line, a timeless call of gratitude, echoes in our hearts this coming winter, I hope we recall that patriotism can beautifully direct our course towards excellence if we continue to permit it to. In and of itself, true, meaningful patriotism infuses that element of hope in our lives, sweetly reminding us of the one common aspect that sews us together rather than the multitude of things that could hew us apart.
— Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society.