Sid Roberts: Patriotism doesn’t require we hold views narrowly

We need to find a way to discuss our differences while valuing those with whom we disagree.

Sid Roberts

Sid Roberts

By Sid Roberts / Herald Forum

How does one show patriotism in today’s world?

Apparently, some think driving a monster pickup with U.S. flags flying in the rear bed aptly demonstrates patriotism. Others seem to believe pushing continual progressive change in the world shows patriotism. There are apparently some who believe not wearing a mask or getting vaccinated for covid somehow expresses patriotism.

Besides voting, which is inherently patriotic, is it possible that one of the greatest forms of patriotism might be to moderate our political narrow-mindedness?

As an elected official I have seen first-hand that debate in politics is a good thing. Sometimes there must be political disagreement so the parties can be aware of all sides of an issue and then settle differences to formulate policy. In all relationships, disagreement is a fact of life. It is true in business, it is true in the family and is certainly true in politics. However, in any discussion, narrow-mindedness is often harmful in that it frequently reflects a closed door to negotiation.

When one holds their beliefs with extreme narrowness, it distorts the picture, impedes change, and hinders democracy.

Interestingly, narrowness is not exclusively a right-wing or a left-wing idea. Some moderate thinkers can be blinded by narrowness. Moderates often wear their tolerance and forbearance as a badge of honor. Yet if you disagree with one of their pet positions, it doesn’t go well.

Regardless of where one stands in the political spectrum it is easy to hold our opinions with narrowness. It takes courage and character to broaden our outlook and negotiate. Narrowmindedness ultimately weakens our democracy.

The Civil War is one example of how good Americans confused narrowness with patriotism. Americans from both sides of the conflict held their positions with patriotic fervor. As Abraham Lincoln stated in his second inaugural address, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” But the patriotism of the South was fraught with narrowness and blindness that nearly dissolved our union. After a 5-year bloodbath the Civil War was settled by force.

I’m concerned that without observing the big picture in life, we too could be heading down the narrow political road that could lead to a civil conflict.

Patriotism is more than simply loving your country. It is sometimes about thoughtfully and with an open mind discussing honest differences with your fellow citizens. We need to have these discussions so that the best democracy in the world can survive in peace. Sometimes, we must simply agree to disagree and still stand shoulder to shoulder with our American brothers and sisters. Freedom of thought and speech should always be preserved. But to hold this democracy together, we may need to resist the temptation of being too narrow-minded. If we do that, we can perpetuate this great democracy and enjoy true patriotism.

If we don’t, our democracy could be in danger.

Sid Roberts lives in Stanwood and is a member of the Stanwood City Council. He and his wife have four grown children and two grandchildren.

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