"Patriotism is a love for everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius. Every danger that threatens the overall good of our native land becomes an occasion to demonstrate this love."
~ Pope John Paul II, 2005, Memory and Identity
The late John Paul the Great knew of what he spoke in the patriotism chapter of Memory and Identity. Having survived the Nazi invasion of Poland and suffered through the terrors visited upon his nation during World War II and the Cold War, John Paul understood love of country as few of us ever can.
The political angst within the United States is a luxury that few nations are afforded. We have not gone hungry to the brink of starvation. None of us fear the midnight knock of the secret police. Judging by the morning newspaper and television newscasts, we are certainly unafraid to speak out against the government and its policies.
We have lost no family members to mass executions. We are not arrested or mutilated because of our jobs. Our children grow up free to choose their paths in life and to pursue whatever dreams they wish.
We can walk the streets in sunshine and have not a care in the world. In short, we have not suffered.
Because we have not suffered, or been called upon to sacrifice for our homeland, we have grown soft and spoiled. Many of us have forgotten that the lives we are privileged to live in these United States, which is the most comfortable and wealthy lifestyle in the world, was purchased at an incalculable price. The blood upon the hot sands of Iwo Jima and Normandy and the icy crust of Korea are but a few of the sacred fields of honor in which soldiers of freedom made their stands and gave their all. Gave all, so that we could be safe and enjoy our good lives.
And we should enjoy them. It honors their memories, all our war dead back to the Minute Men, if we are able to be happy as Americans.
It is Independence Day weekend. Monday is the Fourth of July, a day holy to our nation. On that day in 1776, we told the world we were free. Because of brave men and women, we remain free today.
Honor the fighting men and women who have made it so easy for us to be content and secure, so easy to forget that freedom isn't free.
Go ahead, have your barbeque, drink your beer, play volleyball, ride bikes, swim in the pool or at the beach. Watch the fireworks. Have fun.
But please, remember what it all means. Stop for just a moment--maybe while you're filling the ice chest--to remember our fallen heroes and the valiant love they have demonstrated for our native land.