Cheap shots in name of patriotism

Published 9:16 am Saturday, February 19, 2011

Webster’s Dictionary defines patriotism as “love for or devotion to one’s country.”

Like the love and devotion we feel toward anyone or anything we hold dear, love for country is a very personal, individual thing. It is hard to describe; it is even harder to define.

And like the love and devotion one feels for their God, family or community, the love and devotion we feel for our country manifests itself with a certain sense of individuality, both in how we feel inwardly and display it outwardly.

Patriotism is not defined by the wearing of a lapel pin, the flying of a flag or the singing of the National Anthem. It is what we feel inside that compels us to show these outward displays of our love for country.

However, for many, patriotism is a much more private and personal set of emotions. Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve or hangs a flag on the front of their homes. I know not the content of their hearts, and therefore I would never question their love of country.

Yet the recent conflict among the Navy, City Council and the residents of Franklin has caused some to call into question the patriotism, the love and devotion to country felt by those opposed to the Navy’s use of Franklin Municipal Airport for pilot training.

Men and women of character, who have served this country with honor and distinction, have had their very character called into question by some because they are opposed to the ridiculously bad, one-sided deal the city was asked to consider for use of the airport.

Men and women who have worn their country’s uniform when called to serve, who put themselves in harm’s way to defend this nation, who fought on foreign soil to defend our right to question our government without fear of retribution, are being called unpatriotic.

This country was born out of distrust of government and the desire to reclaim the God-given right to self-determination. The most iconic figures in American history — indeed many of those responsible for the very birth of this nation — stood toe to toe with a government with which they disagreed on principle, took charge of their destiny and fought for the ideals in which they believed.

We put their likenesses on Mount Rushmore and their names on schools and courthouses. We don’t question their honor or their character; we celebrate it.

Yet today, those who question the military are labeled as selfish and unpatriotic.

This past week, in unsigned editorials and anonymous website postings, people of honor and character who have served this nation well, have been attacked as unpatriotic. It’s wrong. In fact, those who choose to take these shots from the cheap seats should take heed and be grateful to those who stand, when compelled, in opposition to their government and its military.

They have names for places where the government goes unquestioned and the military takes whatever it wants; China, North Korea and the Soviet Union all come to mind.

Those who have made themselves aware of the facts understand what Franklin was being asked to do. If one of my children asked for permission to push the other down the steps, it wouldn’t make me a bad parent to tell them no. No more so than Franklin residents saying no to a bad financial deal in the name of appeasing their neighbors to the east makes them unpatriotic.

TONY CLARK is general manager of The Tidewater News. A Capron resident, he is chairman of Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field. He can be reached at