Patriotism and principles

Since yesterday was a day many had off from work to celebrate Independence Day, it seems apt to consider further the concept of patriotism.

There’s no better time to consider patriotism than around July 4, the date commemorating the creation of the United States of America, and, more importantly, the principles that spawned that birth.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

“That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In the run-up to this Fourth of July, patriotism has been the subject of intense and often narrow scrutiny by those who fail to realize that even the definition of patriotism is open to interpretation. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines patriotism as “love and loyal or zealous support of one’s country.”

There are those who would like to limit the definition of “one’s country” to whatever administration is in power and that administration’s policies. Administrations are transient; the bedrock principles on which the United States was built are eternal.

In 1776, there was a wide divide of prejudice, privilege and power between what the declaration said and what was practiced. That divide has been narrowed by acting out of a “love and loyal or zealous support” of the ideas that formed our national, state and county governments, and disagreeing with what those governments are doing.

The Declaration of Independence sings with the clarity of a universal truth – a hymn that goes beyond any one religion or creed to a basic longing of mankind: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

“The consent of the governed” is best expressed by rational debate, civilized opposition and a universal desire to make this community, this country and this world a better place. True patriots work within the system, even when they want that system to change. That’s the beauty and the strength of the great American experiment that began July 4, 1776.

Patriotism is more than lapel pins and declarations of fealty. Patriotism is working for a better Maui, a better Hawaii, a better United States of America.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.