A man walks into a bar on Patriot Day and orders a beer…
Funny joke right? Sadly that’s what Patriot Day is for many Americans.
Regardless of whether you celebrate Patriot Day on September 11th, or Patriot’s Day in New England in April (or both) these holidays offer an opportunity to go beyond the lip service of “never forget” banners and American Flag t-shirts.
Don’t get me wrong, both of those things are fine, but when you actually think about why these days are special at all, muttering a few words and a brief moment of silence seems a little shallow, doesn’t it?
They say that memories stick with you relative to emotions that are attached to them.
I remember back in 2001 when it happened. I was in the sixth grade in Ms. Goetz class at Greencastle Antrim Middle School.
They stopped everything, put on the TV, we all watched and then we went home early.
My primary emotion was confusion. I really couldn’t comprehend what was going on at eleven years old.
Actually, when I think about it, I’m lucky. None of my family is anywhere near New york.
Other people, not so much.
Can you even fathom going through your typical morning routine, going to work, school, or being at home and then getting the news that your spouse, child, parent or friend is stuck in one of those buildings?
The gravity of that situation is intense, and on Patriot Day most of us honor those people with….a moment of silence.
What a joke.
I don’t like to half ass anything, and I’m not trying to pressure you or guilt trip you into thinking that what you do isn’t enough, but I do think a bit more than 30 seconds of our time is called for…
Am I right?
They say that evil in this world exists for a purpose; it’s supposed to inspire us to become better and learn from it. If we don’t actively learn from evil, then it’s just evil that sucks and we get nothing from it.
Doesn’t sound good does it?
So I came up with 7 Ways we can all make ourselves better and learn from lessons taught on 9/11/2001.
1. Appreciate your Family
2977 people died on what is now called Patriot day. What’s more, 2442 soldiers have died in the war that ensued afterward and nearly 21 thousand have come home injured.
Those numbers mean that it’s quite possible for over 500 families in every single state to be affected by what happened 20 years ago.
I know from experience that, within reason, whatever quarrels you have with your family, you’ll miss them when they leave, even if only because they remind you of your own mortality and you wonder if things could have been different had you tried a little harder.
2. Embrace Courage when you’re Afraid
For fire fighters the situation quickly turned from doing their job into a serious search and rescue mission. In fact, the History Channel calls September 11th the deadliest day in Firefighting history.
Imagine rushing into the first building, scaling the stairs only to hear the fury of the building next to you exploding and crumbling.
This all happened within fifteen minutes.
New York firefighter chief, Peter Hayden, said that they all knew people were going to die, but they rushed in to save the people trapped in the burning towers.
When you first hear the word patriot as an American, it’s probably during school while you’re learning about the American Revolution.
The part I remember most about those lessons was when John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence. Whether he actually said this or not, the anecdote goes that Hancock signed the Declaration while saying, “There, I imagine the british army can read that without their spectacles”.
Some say that anecdote is baseless and probably not true (although I can’t imagine why). Regardless, his signature is the “largest and most flamboyant of all the signatures’ ‘ and if the british had one the war, he wouldn’t have been able to pretend he was on their side.
He was committed. I appreciate the boldness.
In a famous speech given in 1775, Patrick Henry spoke to the Virginia Convention and said “Give me Liberty, or Give Me Death!”.
That’s always been a favorite of mine, because my number one value in life is my independence. I value it even more than love. Every time I feel like I’m being controlled in any way I become infuriated.
Actually, that’s the entire reason you’re reading this post. This site is a piece of a life I designed for myself when I felt trapped and enslaved. Not enslaved in physical chains, but within a life that was no longer suited for me…Anyway…
Whether Hancock, Henry or the 227 firefighters who have died because of 9/11, being a Patriot requires courage.
3. Find reasons why you love your country
Luckily, if you’re born in this country you’re automatically American, because if we all had to write down the reasons why we SHOULD be American, most of us would fail.
Why do you love this country? Do you even know? Maybe you do, and if so, good for you, but if you struggle even after a few seconds to come up with a single reason, it’s time to put in some serious thought.
And no, “freedom” is not a good answer. You’ll have to do better than that.
I’m going to write down some of the reasons why I love this country and I’ll tell you how long it takes me just to show you what I mean.
The reason I love living in the U.S. is that it accommodates my ambition. First of all the progress this country sees is facilitated mostly by its military and it’s entrepreneurs.
I’ve always been on the entrepreneurial side, even though most of my family were in the military in some capacity. So my desire for endless progress and achievement is facilitated here.
I like the idea of living in a place where the ceiling is constantly shattered and not stagnant (theoretically).
The second reason I love this place is that the trade offs of living in a capitalist country based on a democracy are the best to deal with in my opinion.
All things in the universe are subject to the universal law of entropy. All things decay and develop toxic elements.
When this happens in the United States you see the gap between those who have and those who don’t become huge.
The second trade off is that people can start to see voting as a right, without understanding that it’s also a skill.
In order to mitigate those tradeoffs is the job of Wealthy and resource heavy individuals to be generous to those who don’t have a lot, and it’s also important for us all to understand that since our opinions (theoretically) are equal, we need to make sure we’re not complete morons. Otherwise, our country is led into ruin by idiots (which could be you and me if we’re not careful).
Whenever countries are constructed differently, the state has the potential to become this despotic regime that really turns out ugly most of the time.
That, and the incentive in countries where the state provides most of the necessities of life is quite low.
Not my thing. I like the problems the U.S. faces better than anyone else’s (they’re easier to solve).
There. I showed you mine, now you show me yours.
Simon Keller describes patriotism in a similar way. Patriots must not only love their own nation because of the values it stands for, but because that country is uniquely theirs.
4. Figure out what type of American you are.
The first real step to finding your unique American-ess is figuring out what type of American you are.
The simplest way to do this is to examine the values that are represented in our culture and see which ones speak to you the most.
Try these out:
- The Freedom over everything American
- The “We can say whatever we want and speak our mind” American
- The Support those who Sacrifice for us American
- The Freedom to Live and be Care Free American
- The I like my space and Privacy American
- The Direct and to the Point American
- The Progress for us and the World American
- The Historian and Culture Expert
- The “Appreciate all things American” American
- The “Only buys American” American
- The Rise to the Top and Beat everyone Else American
- The Olympic Athlete and Sports American
- The Melting Pot Appreciator
- The “Can Point out other Countries on Maps” American
- The “Doesn’t say Go back to your Country Every other Sentence” American
5. Remember what’s basic to human life, and that everything else is extra
In an episode of Hot Ones with Sean Evans (the show with hot questions and even hotter wings lol) Alton Brown remembers how after September 11th the Food Network ratings “went through the roof”.
Paraphrasing his words: “The whole country needed comfort, and so we all turned to food.”
It’s easy to forget that some people on earth live each day of their lives just searching for food, water and maintaining crude shelters, while living in small tight knit tribes.
That’s to say, they live without all the complicated technologies, social issues, economic and military battles that we think is intrinsic to our society.
The reality is, whenever, shit hits the fan we all realize how little actually matters.
We’re allowed to subjectively feel like we’re great without feeling some sense of objective superiority.
The fact is, when stripped naked, humans are all doing the same shit. American’s just happen to look better naked. HAH! 🙂
6. Write down the issues with the U.S you care about most
Loving the place you live means caring about the issues it faces. It’s your own backyard, and you don’t want it to turn into junk right?
Right down 10 issues Americans face and pick the most important one that you will take steps toward solving.
7. Brainstorm what you’re willing to sacrifice to move the U.S. forward.
Andrew Mason in 1997 said that to be a true citizen (patriot) we must take on certain obligations and be willing to sacrifice for the country we live in.
Actually, this is one of the only times in life I would ever tell someone that they are obligated to do something.
More often I take the position that another human being does not decide for you or me what our obligations and responsibilities are, but in this case, it seems crucial the tend to the bed we sleep in so-to-speak.
Nobody makes our bed for us when it gets messy, so it’s our job to see that it’s ready for us each night when we go to rest our heads. I don’t want to sleep in a mess and neither do you.
So what are my opinions are a Patriot’s obligations? I think America suffers from many things, but the two most comprehensive problems we have are:
- The gap between those with resources and those without has the potential to become huge
- The ratio of educated and uneducated is too low
Number one: our obligation is to be generous with one another, according to our skills and our capacity. Nobody should go broke and put themselves at jeopardy for another, but we should give what we can. Giving doesn’t necessarily mean money either.
Number two: The Greeks knew that the biggest threat to their society was that the least skilled, knowledgeable, wise and experienced among them might one day define what progress looked like in their society.
Their idea was that this would give rise to what they called a demagogue, a leader who did nothing but pander to the masses (who were largely morons) and politics would become nothing but a popularity contest, rather than a way to progress their civilization forward for the betterment of their society.
When the least mature and wise among us decide what direction we go in, where will they lead us to?
The simplest way to mitigate this tradeoff is to become a constant learner. Not necessarily in school or college, but in your own life wherever it can manifest. Always be learning – every day.
Be a Patriot on Patriot Day, not a dummy. We’ve got enough of those.