Twent two years ago today, Americans came together, bonded by patriotism after the 9/11 attacks, which shook the nation to its core. The stirring responses by New Yorkers and Americans around the United States gave an inside look at what it meant to be a patriot and how to help grieving Americans. As we look back at that fateful day and the two decades that transpired, have we now forgotten the essence of the patriotic values that have shaped the United States?
First and foremost, let’s define patriotism. Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as, “The love for or devotion to one’s country.” The very definition is not straightforward as it may seem and is complex. It’s up to the beholder to define the meaning of patriotism and how to act upon those ideals. Countless Americans manifested those ideals during 9/11 and were the glue that kept the country behind a united front.
Whether it was Alan Jackson’s country song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” to strangers flocking to lower Manhattan to assist with the cleanup. People channeled their grief into enlisting in the military, setting up charities, independently volunteering, helping those in need, and taking the time to reflect and listen to one another. Americans seized upon the moment and didn’t relinquish their patriotic duty to lift a misty-eyed country back onto its feet.
With each fleeting moment, these acts of heroism seem distant and not the country we live in today. The very essence of patriotism has turned into a political gambit and used as fuel to perpetuate the ongoing fire of divisiveness in the United States. No matter what political party you affiliate with, you are denounced and deemed unpatriotic to those individuals. If you think differently than the person next to you and don’t believe in the same ideals, then you are unpatriotic, not the other way around. Sitting down, listening to each other's differences, and reflecting has evolved into a yelling contest.
Yet, America seems to have lost its inherent understanding of patriotism and will continue to do so. Unless this once proud nation can be reborn and weave its patriotic values of the past back into society. And it starts by accepting each other's distinctions with civility.
September 11th, 2001, will never be forgotten, but the patriotic ideals that defined a nation for a decade and brought a country together are becoming a bygone era.