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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Re-discovering patriotism

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(6/2015) I have always believed myself to be an old soul. I love black and white movies, vinyl, and record players. I enjoy reading age-old letters and looking at old pictures even if I do not know the people in them. But I am more than just fond of these things, you see, for they always have inspired a sense of nostalgia for a time period that I have never known and a place I have never been. What really strikes me about the past is the patriotism that seemed to spread like fire throughout the nation. You always see the pictures in history books and documentaries, groups of people with winning smiles, holding up pictures declaring victory or proudly waving flags and banners as parades marched past. I hardly see any of this nowadays. Sure, in our younger school days, we start with the Pledge of Allegiance and sports games begin with our National Anthem, but it seems as though most people just go through the motions, speaking the words without really noting or sometimes even caring what they are, or what actually had to take place for us to have them to say in the first place. If I am being one hundred percent honest, I did the same thing in school. I would stand up, place my hand over my heart, and quickly mumble the necessary words.

Take a moment to think about how far we have come as a country in the past two-hundred and thirty nine years. Sure we have had our fair share of discontent, hardships, and even injustices. We are still a far cry from perfect, but when put in perspective to other countries that have been building for far longer than we have, America has come a long way in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. We still have some glitches in our system, but we forget we are still a relatively young country; we just need to grow into the large shoes that are forefathers gave us with formation the Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights.

The Declaration of Independence, for example, created in 1776, is a document that was extremely ahead of its time. If taken at face value, it can be seen as one of the most sincere governmental documents ever written. "All men are created equal… are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Of course, I will not transcribe to you the entirety of the document, but those first well-known and often recited words should suit my purpose. This document asserts from its beginning that all men are created equal; the document fails to specify race, age, or gender ("men" is a term that is used apply to human beings as a whole). This concept is extremely progressive, especially for the day and age in which it was written. The sentence itself is pretty straightforward; it allows for no exceptions or alternative interpretation: all men. The document continues by declaring that these same "men" establish the government to protect these rights, and since it is created by the people, it protects it from going against them.

Take a moment to consider what precisely this means. While our government may be somewhat imperfect, it is founded and framed on a perfect ideal. We have been blessed to have the freedoms we have, and though there is always room for improvement, we tend to take seemingly simple things like freedom of speech and religion for granted. As I am sure you remember from elementary school, the Bill of Rights protects freedoms such as these. It was formed in 1789 and ratified and added to the Constitution in 1791. It contains twelve amendments. They protect all the rights that we deem important, from representation and due process, to religion and speech. The unhappy truth is that there are places in this world where the term "all men" does not exist, where people are persecuted and oppressed for their beliefs, beaten down and at times, even killed, for expressing their opinions. While our government is still trying to meet these rather large expectations framed by our founding documents, we are lucky to even have them in the first place.

I always hear this sense of patriotism in a story my grandmother always told me. It was about my great-great grandmother, who was an immigrant from Poland like her husband. Her husband came to America later on in life, while she was brought by her family when she was a little girl. My great-great grandmother received her citizenship later on in life along with my great-great grandfather. They both spoke fluent Polish and kept a tight hold on their traditions, but in the stories I hear about them, they were overwhelmingly proud to be Americans. They flew the Stars and Stripes as high and as proud as any citizen of America should. When my great-great grandfather would start speaking in Polish, my great-great grandmother would turn to him and say, "No, we are in America, we will speak American."

This Flag Day, in honor of the Stars and Stripes, I encourage you to do at least one thing that is patriotic, whether this is volunteering at (or donating to) a Veteran’s Hospital or simply flying an American flag. I am waiting for an era of America that once again swells with pride at saying the Pledge of Allegiance or tears up, like my grandmother does, when those opening lyrics of "Oh! Say can you see…" can be heard.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir