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September 23, 2014

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Letter to the readers:

A patriot by any other name

As the Fourth of July nears, what does it mean to be an American?

Dear reader,

I received an email this week from someone I’ll call “Joe.” The email was filled with rumors, innuendos and outright lies about various people and political figures, attacking not only their positions but also their patriotism. I’ve received plenty of emails like this, but what made this remarkable was its breadth and ferocity.

Perhaps most noticeable was how Joe argued that anyone who disagrees with him was anti-American. Without directly saying so, he holds that his beliefs are the traditional American values, thus anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. Of course, he was an apparent expert on American values; I know because he signed the letter “Patriot Joe.”

I should note that his American values weren’t just baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, nor were they the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. His values include his interpretation of the Constitution as well as his belief about what it means to be an American.

Fair enough. That’s America. We’re all entitled to our opinions, and thanks to the genius of the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment, we can air them. I’m not intending to start an argument with Joe (or you). I have no doubt he is a patriot and that he loves our country. But that doesn’t mean that his view or his belief is the definition of what it means to be an American, and it’s bothersome to hear people tar political opponents as communists, fascists or anti-American because they have a political disagreement.

Americans come from different backgrounds and beliefs. Their love of country shouldn’t be questioned just because they have a different viewpoint.

The Fourth of July is next week, and I’ll celebrate it with more than a barbecue and fireworks. I’ll spend some time talking to my children about our country, and I’ll mention some great Americans.

I’m going to skip most of the big names — they’ll get those in the history books. I’ll tell them about people I’ve known. Some of those people served in the military. Some ran businesses, others ran for office, but most led lives that didn’t land them in the headlines. They paid their bills, paid attention to the issues, voted and raised families. In the process, they built the country.

Politically, I haven’t been on the same page as all of them. In some cases, I was adamantly opposed to what they believed. But they believed honestly in their views and they believed in this country and their fellow citizens. In my book, that makes them patriots — even if they’re on what I see as the wrong side of the issue.

But that’s my view, which I’m entitled to. What do you think? To you, what does it mean to be an American? Who are some of the great Americans in your book? What do you do to celebrate the Fourth of July?

You can send your thoughts and questions to: “America” c/o Letters to the editor, Las Vegas Sun, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074. Or send a letter via email: [email protected]. Or fax: (702) 383-7264. We’d love to run some of your views next week.

God bless America,

Patriot Matt

Matt Hufman is editor of the editorial and opinion pages. Twitter: @MattattheSun.

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  1. This is not unique to our times and political climate. When our leaders from the top down are divisive and prey on class welfare, for votes and popularity, the result is people like patriot Joe. It's the fault of both parties and their leadership. They believe it works politically. In truth, it gives rise to 3rd party candidates.

    CarmineD

  2. Matt

    Our best traditional values are helping each other in times of need. I have often wondered if God or whatever Universal Energy you believe in doesn't allow natural disasters, not to punish anyone, but to allow the rest of us to practice the goodness that is our real nature. The Joplin tornado and Hurricane Katrina are just two example of events that brought out the generosity and helpfulness that is our true higher nature.

    None of us can accurately describe "traditional" American values outside our individual traditions. We are all products of different experiences and when we band together with others that has more to do with a shared vision of the future than any shared tradition. Our passion for this vision has degenerated into a right-wrong contest where each side of an issue emphasises its rightness by making all other views wrong. Your email writer Joe is an example of emphasizing his rightness by tacking on "Patriot" to his name.

    Truth is we all have a right to the future we envision. That right may be an American tradition most could agree to. Perhaps, we need more than one country. Or maybe we just need a really big disaster to bring out something different in us.

  3. Who do I feel are the great Americans,non other than the brave men and women in the military.They fought and died in the 2nd.world war against Germany and Japan to final victory.How can we forget the Korean war where they froze to death in that brutal winter climate.No one can ever forget Vietnam as unpopular as this war was,they still fought and died for their country.The wars in Afghanastan and Iraq where we sent them to fight for so many years,with no clear victory in sight.They came back in flag draped coffins, wounded and disfigured,and burned.They still held their heads high and continue to sacrifice for their country.These are the true great Americans,no dought.They will always be there when their country calls as they have been in all of our involved wars.

  4. "...he holds that his beliefs are the traditional American values, thus anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. Of course, he was an apparent expert on American values..."

    Huffman -- I've known some like your Joe. That mentality is pretty much summed up as rednecks with guns.

    As to what does it mean to be an American, that was best summed up in our republic's founding document.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable 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; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." -- Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776

  5. "The Joplin tornado and Hurricane Katrina are just two example of events that brought out the generosity and helpfulness that is our true higher nature."

    pisces -- I know something about the latter, since my kids got out of New Orleans just ahead of it. It's a prime example of exactly how impotent and wrong our federal government is, especially under Bush. The shining example was in Reason Magazine's excellent depiction of the true American spirit and it was from people, not government. Check out Neille Illel's "A Healthy Dose of Anarchy" @ http://reason.com/archives/2006/12/11/a-...

    An interesting note from Katrina's aftermath was the sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, the hardest hit in that storm, ordering the arrest of federal agents who were actively preventing utility repairs and stopping convoys of supply trucks. And National Guard troops, instead of actually helping people like their commercials showed, searching and seizing all weapons, even cigarettes and lighters, from people seeking to get into the Superdome before the storm hit, then leaving them to the predators inside. And going door to door searching and seizing all firearms. The list is endless.

    The lesson is government needs to get out of the way when it comes to people doing what needs to be done for each other, whether it be for disasters or commerce.

    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from your government and I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan

  6. All I can say is this: When we choose to redefine a word, a description of a word, or make it fit our need, it is hard to allow free speech. Many words offend others, but that does not change the meaning.Others say and print words that certain people follow instead of researching on their own. Yes, I have acquaintances that I completely disagree with, COMPLETELY, and why? Simple, they do not fit the definition of Patriot. I am sad when you get emails with words that you are afraid of the definition, but to turn them around and say they are not true, well just wrong. We have had these definitions and these same fights for decades. Take a long look at Joe Patriot, then our society: Baseball, so overpriced and really not the national past time, hot dogs, draw such bad press that I am not sure anyone should eat one, then Apple Pie..who can make one, who wants one in the place of their "starbucks" and do I have to say how many jobs went out of this Country while GM was transferred to it's people? You define it.

  7. Great intro to article. In often escapes me why people, including posters here, seem to think their point of view or their opinion is of utmost import. They seem to have this inordinate need to denigrate everyone and everything that doesn't conform to their world view. So much time and talk is wasted on why things should be or are the way they see them and only the way they see things. Ditto on how we got here. Other than trying to prevent a rerun of history, what difference does it make? How we get out of here is NOT dependent on every body agreeing on how we got here. Sure we can reverse things one slow step at a time but it would be a lot more effective to implement things that work. So rather than join their game of trying to figure out how they got to where they are (so screwed up), let's just move on with making a present and future that we want to live in.

  8. I grew up with a bunch of first-generation Americans who spoke various languages at home and English at school. Their parents were wonderful people. Always got a charge out of the Dads who would ask a question or listen to me say something. They'd listen closely and then turn to their kid who would reiterate what I just said, again in English. Then the Dad would nod his head yes, yes, I understand. I understood the term "salt of the earth" first time I heard it probably because of these people--who had left various parts of Europe to escape oppression and do something for their kids--no, no, that's not right. They left to survive. And, they were exceedingly polite and grateful to the nation that sent thousands of troops to Normandy--turned into hamburger on D-day. These were the emigrants that merged with the greatest generation of Americans. They would not accept handouts or charity. Even with all the melting pot stuff--they were more than happy for their kids to marry into other families--the country or area of origin of our grandparents does have a significant influence on our outlook. I'm up to here with all the media concerns about skin color and disregard for real ethnicity. Only one ethnicity that carries that Nordic blond look? Not hardly.

  9. KillerB -

    By coincidence my daughter was in Joplin when the tornado hit. Her take was that the Federal response was great. But it was really the response of citizens across the country that I was referring to.

  10. "By coincidence my daughter was in Joplin when the tornado hit. Her take was that the Federal response was great."

    pisces -- tense until you heard she was OK, no? I can relate. The weekend before Katrina hit it took 2 days for just a text message to get through. Maybe the feds were better because Bush and his old buddy he gave FEMA to weren't in charge.

    "Practise what I call a decent mammalian philosophy" -- Hervey Allen, 1933

  11. Roberta I also grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Detroit. They were from Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and Germany. This was right after WWII. My parents called them "dp's" and my father explained what that meant. He said that most had gone through so much and now they at least had a place to live. Something the war had taken from them. They were wonderful people.

  12. To be an American means I reside on the American continent. I legally reside in the United States, which is part of North America.

    Within the United States, there are rich and diverse cultures that sometimes resemble each other very little, and sometimes not at all.

    The United States has changed significantly over my lifetime, ideologically, philosophically, politically, morally and ethically.

    Transiency, movement of people far and wide across this nation, often for better economic conditions has brought benefits and disadvantages depending on people's ability to adapt.

    I don't recognized the United States from what I grew up knowing and experiencing. However, that isn't necessarily pejorative.

    Each new day gives each one of us the opportunity to recognize or bring happiness into our lives and share it with others, even with all the challenges we have and the loss of freedoms that exist for some. We plant, cultivate and harvest happiness everyday.

    With all the changes, and lack of seeing the "America" I once knew, I celebrate the freedom of heart and mind I enjoy, to be one of the many people living on this continent, enjoying the rich beauty and differences, and finding ways for me to love, give and share the experience of life with those who are willing to open to the same.

    One day there is a good possibility we will be the North American Union, then the American Union with a new currency and government structure for the whole continent. It will be an opportunity to expand our openness, to open our arms to so many wonderful and new cultures and experiences. We may need to be even more supportive of one another, to build closer relationships.

    For me, that is being an American today. The Fourth of July is Independence Day. For me that is independence from all that separates all Americans. It challenges me to tear down my own prejudices, pry loose selfishness in order to truly live and give freely.

    Independence Day is changing into something new...Interdependence Day, in keeping with the continental and global changes that are gradually taking place.

  13. @dipstick- Even though some of my statements are good, there are things about the NAU/AU idea and a common currency that could be outside the democratic process. So, you are correct in your assessment.

    If that is the case in the future, we won't have much to say about it and will need to make the best of the situation we are put in.

    That best may be what we can control; our relationships, concerns for each other, helping & supporting each other, becoming real caring communities may be the best assets we have.

  14. I guess some of our usual so called patriots did not read this well written article. The usual name calling i.e. obama facists, dumocrats, socialist, communists etc; are pleasantly missing and to be truthful a welcome break.
    I don't object to their right to speak, as a matter of fact I welcome it. I just hope for a little civility.

  15. I'm angry, very angry. Right now I'm thinking of the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who died protecting the rights of American citizens. The rights of people are being stolen by Citizens United and restricting the right to vote under the guise of voter fraud. I can't consider someone being a patriot when they attack a group of people to deny them the right to vote. Why not bring back Jim Crow laws? At least that would make these so-called patriots honest.

    Pennsylvania and other Republican run states are asking their citizens to provide a government ID (remember the lie we want a small gov't?) that some can't afford, or would be difficult to obtain. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai(R) said that the voter ID law passed by the legislature would help deliver the state for Mitt Romney in November. Mr. Turzai said, "Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." In other words to hell with American rights, we want to win at any cost.