I attended a UIL competition yesterday at James Madison High School because I was invited by my English teacher. It was last minute, however, so I hadn’t attended any meets or practices and really had no idea what was going to happen. I wasn’t very prepared. I participated in the Ready Writing Invitational Test, an expository writing competition. We were given the following topic and were just told to write. My essay follows the topic. After the competition, I waited for five hours, the last from my school to leave. My teachers left early, yet I decided to stay. Of course my contest was the last to be announced. Fortunately my wait was not in vain as I won a third place trophy out of about twenty-five contestants.
Topic: “Three hundred thousand bikers spent Memorial Day weekend roaring around Washington in tribute to our war dead….The street had been closed off for them and they motored on by, some flying the Stars and Stripes and the black MIA-POW flag, honking, revving their engines, an endless celebration of internal combustion….A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti-the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing….If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read … any of a hundred books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullabaloo without exposing themselves to danger…”
-Garrison Keillor, “The Roar of Hollow Patriotism,” Chicago Tribune, May 28, 2008
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” can be heard each morning within many schools across the country. Many view this act as a patriotic student display, although true patriotism does not support it. Blindly following routine, students moan as they pick themselves from their seats and slouch towards the small flag hanging from the chalkboard. Tired arms rest hands somewhere upon their chests, perhaps not always over the heart, and cold vocal chords force out mumbled words without thought. Patriotism is not often a real feeling expressed by proud citizens, but a figurehead in society, a meer image or thought. This idea wraps around America’s people as an unappreciated security blanket, gifted by those who valiantly sacrifice themselves to keep our nation a strong and supportive country.
In the middle of the summer many Americans look forward to planning barbeques and picnics to enjoy a warm evening display of fireworks on the fourth of July. On this night many will become drunk and some may even become injured from events such as football. These events are thought to be classic American traditions yet they hold no significant honor to America at all. Over 200 years ago when the Declaration of Independence was signed and America was declared free from England, these acts were unheard of as true nationalism spread through the country. Now, many people celebrate Independence Day without even realizing its importance, signifigance, or even its true name. People wave flags about and decorate their tablecloths in stars and stripes without the true, driving spirit of patriotism. It’s just another routine, another holiday, and just one more reason to stay home from work.
America is thought to be one of the greatest countries in the world. We have many accomplishments associated with our name and much to be proud of, yet many Americans take this for granted or take this to shame. Although America is a relatively “new” country, we have built a fierce, independent nation, envied by many around the world. This took effort, however, as people fought and continue to fight for their freedoms, rights, and beliefs. Deaths help support our nation and help build up what it has become without people even realizing when they are rest safely and comfortably in their stable homes. Benefitting from others’ acheivements, some citizens hide behing the flag in fear. Patriotism is used to obscure true emotions from the world and grants an honor or reason to many undeserving actions. Without exposing themselves to danger, Americans can recline upon a nation which they did not help bring up. There is no true honor as patriotism is lost.
Patriotism has become a complex idea and a weighty pillar of support for many Americans. When people were faced with hardships and were being treated as they felt was undeserved, they were passionate and proud to stand up for what they believed in. When Americans did not have what they felt each person deserved, they valiantly took it and created a powerful country full of diligent citizens. This pride was full of emotion and full of heart. There was true reason behind each act and goals that were never forgotten. America must still use effort to sustain what we have become and what we hold dear. Soldiers still continue to face death for their country and die for others’ beliefs with the same passion and unfailing desire, yet the way the people waiting for them back at home view their acts has changed drastically. Not only did our human emotions build up a steady country, but also a great mask of which we choose to hide behind. Nationalism has grown weaker with Americans losing pride in their country, honor in their home, and value in what they are blessed with.
Over time patriotism has been given many different definitions and meanings. The idea has changed and evolved, even becoming a false statement. It has become a hollow excuse, an emptiness used to cover shame, no longer a passionate feeling that once filled the heart with pride and worth. Stars and stripes have faded over the years losing their tenacity and vigor to stand strong with confidence. The spirit in America’s people has weakened as they have grown to become unappreciative in their own safety. Freedom is no longer treasured. America overall does not trully stand as proudly and passionately as she once did.