© 2024 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Do You Define A Patriot?

What’s a patriot?

In Shakespeare’s Richard III, a man accused of treason for former loyalties defends himself, saying:

We followed then our lord, our sovereign king.
So should we you, if you should be our king.

He suggests patriotism depends on loyalty to rules governed by a monarchical system.

Americans pledge allegiance to ideals of liberty and justice -- not to any particular person, tribe, or cultural tradition. That slavery and other evils occurred despite these ideals doesn’t prove the ideals wrong. It shows the need to uphold them through the sacrifices of patriots.

Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau urge Americans to break laws that assault justice. Minoru Yasui, an Army lieutenant turned lawyer from Oregon, was one such patriot. He purposely broke a curfew set against minorities of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Arrested and jailed, he served in solitary confinement with dignity.

In his writings and speech, he praised the rights his country was supposed to afford its citizens. All this in the face of grave personal mistreatment. He argued that the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans dishonored the great United States.

Yasui’s conviction was vacated in 1986 and, in 1988, President Reagan signed a formal apology, granting $20,000 to Japanese-Americans interned during the war. In 2015, Yasui received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A true patriot fights for justice to make America great, especially when doing so is dangerously unpopular.

I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.

Related Stories