Since September 11th, there has been a surge of flag-flying and anthem-singing. Flags of all sizes adorn homes, vehicles and clothes. Patriotic songs and slogans can be heard and seen in schools, at sporting events and in advertising. Such national enthusiasm is a good thing, right? Of course, but it's important to understand that patriotism is more than displaying the flag or reciting the pledge. Here are some ways you can show your children the many facets of patriotism.
PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN
What distinguishes the United States from most other sovereign nations is its democratic form of government that gives each eligible citizen the right to participate by voting. However, the voting record of the American public is not great. Less than 50% of the eligible voters actually exercise their right and the percentage is far less during off years like 2001. At the local level, the number of eligible voters who participate in school board elections, budget votes and referenda is even more abysmal. Voting is not only a right, but also a responsibility, and exercising that right is an act of patriotism. Take your children into the voting booth when you vote and show them the importance of actively participating in a democracy.
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE
Being a loyal, patriotic American means being a law-abiding citizen. Here are two simple steps you can take to demonstrate your respect for the law and, in turn, teach your children the importance of the rule of law.
1. Obey all traffic laws. When your children accompany you in your car, they see firsthand whether the rule of law is important to you. If you routinely speed, tailgate or ignore traffic signals, you're sending a message that the law doesn't apply to you.
2. Pay your due taxes. Adults, who evade or cheat on their taxes, demonstrate that law-breaking is okay. If you don't like how the government taxes you, work actively and legally to change the system.
OH, SAY CAN YOU SEE
It's great to see so many flags in so many places. Yet, it's troubling to see the lack of respect sometimes accorded the flag. Here are three basic rules of flag etiquette that every American should know.
1. The union (stars on blue background) should always on top facing north or east.
2. The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset only. If it is flown at night, it should be illuminated.
3. No flag that is torn or discolored should be displayed. Worn flags should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner. Contact a local civic association, American Legion or scout organization to retire a flag.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
There are three easy ways you can show your children how to keep America beautiful.
1. Don't litter and correct your children when they litter.
2. Recycle. Many communities have mandatory recycling. Do your part to reduce the waste stream. Follow the guidelines for recycling in your community. Some over-zealous individuals place many inappropriate materials in their recycling container, thus reducing the value of the other recyclables.
3. Follow all rules when using public parklands. In particular, respect rules about off-road (trail) use, building of fires and collection of natural materials.
UNITED WE STAND
America has been called the great melting pot and, more recently, the great salad bowl. It is a perhaps the most heterogeneous nation in the world, especially in its urban centers. Model tolerance and respect for your children. Learn and teach your children about your own heritage and the diversity of backgrounds that comprise America. Actively resist prejudice and hate.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
One of the most important freedoms that the first settlers sought was the freedom of religion. Today, religious or spiritual expression includes a wide range of values and beliefs. Nevertheless, there are common themes like a belief in a cause greater then the individual, understanding through reflection and meditation, and the struggle of good versus evil. When you practice the faith of your choice, you not only exercise one of your essential rights, you help your children develop a sense of morality and the ability to cope with suffering and loss.