I was going through some of my folders looking for resume stuff, and I found something I was afraid I had lost. Last summer my local paper asked for responses on the question, "what is patriotism?" This is what I wrote:
A patriot commits himself through love at cost to the ideas and people that are his country.
Patriotism is an act of will rather than a mere attitude. As such, it begins with commitment, ranging from the small gestures like the hand over the heart to the grand sacrifices like Lincoln's "last full measure of devotion." For this reason a patriot honors most highly those military men and women willing to offer their lives for their country.
A patriot acts through love; that is, the vocabulary and habits of love shape how patriotism is expressed. Thus honor, respect, devotion, and desire infuse both wedding vow and patriotic pledge, and as love without sacrifice is cheap, patriotism without cost is phony. Lip service is not enough in the quest for either lover or country.
A patriot is not tied solely to accidents of population and geography but rather to the ideas and people that give a country its identity. America is unique in the world in that its people are its ideas and its ideas its people. An American patriot is called to assert certain beliefs about the political equality of man and woman, the role of liberty in human affairs, and the sovereignty of the people. Thereby does America arise from the striving and bubbling of its great melting pot.
Above all else, an American patriot builds the America of his dreams even while he is being shaped by the America of his victorious forebears.