Once again it is July 4. Our nation is 245 years old today and we celebrate with flags, our national anthem, parades, fireworks, outdoor barbecue and, of course, unbridled commercialism, all in the name of patriotism. But is all this patriotic fervor really patriotic? What is patriotism? Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines patriotism as “love or devotion to one’s country”. But how does one show love or devotion to one’s country? Waving flags? Marching in parades? Singing patriotic songs? To me, that’s really very superficial and not what I think of as patriotism.

When one loves and/or is devoted to someone or something, one wants to serve them, to do good things for them, to protect them, and is willing to make sacrifices for them. When the object one loves and is devoted to is their country, and one wants to serve his/her country, protect it, improve the welfare of its people and is willing to make sacrifices for it, then that is patriotism.

The way we celebrate our nation’s birthday today is more about self indulgence: a day off work having fun, waving flags, playing games, watching fireworks and sports events, and drinking beer and eating pizza and hot dogs. I don’t consider that patriotic.

True patriotism is about country, not self. People who serve only themselves are not patriots. Those who serve to protect our country are patriots. Those who teach our children are patriots. Those who provide aid and solace for others are patriots. Those who combat injustice, inequity, corruption, cruelty, and seek peace are patriots.

There are many ways to prove one’s love and devotion to country, but waving flags, marching in parades, launching fireworks and barbecuing are not among them. That’s not patriotism, that’s simply self indulgence.