Teaching patriotism in our homes can strengthen our families, communities, and nation. Since the family is the core unit of our society, what we teach in our homes will have a great effect in the world around us.
In 1976 Robert K. Thomas and Shirley Wilkes Thomas wrote an article in honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States. The title of their article is “Declaration of Dependence: Teaching Patriotism in the Home.” I discovered the article recently and found it very interesting as well as very appropriate to our nation today.
The article began, “Citizenship may be more than a matter of birth or formal naturalization. For unless one truly promotes the common welfare of his country, he is an alien in the oldest sense of that term - that is, estranged from his fellows. Citizenship is a declaration of dependence upon one another, a recognition that only in unity is there strength and a security that is moral as well as physical. The natural expression of that identification and that security is patriotism. As with many other attitudes, patriotism is easy to feign. Its usual expressions, such as saluting the flag or acknowledging the civil rights of others can be little more than gestures. Yet, at their best, the outward manifestations of patriotic feeling can be deeply satisfying and binding symbols.
“The heart of patriotism, however, lies in attitudes that are rooted in family relationships, for the family unit, in microcosm, undergoes most of the stresses which test the larger societies that make up a nation. The qualities that distinguish patriotism are all of the `homely’ variety: respect, integrity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, consideration, fairness, appreciation, and devotion. No exhortation to respect his country’s flag can mean much to the youngster whose casual, permissive upbringing has left him with little respect for anything. And the child who equates freedom with indulgence may never understand the consideration for others that is fundamental to a workable democracy.”
The article suggests several ways to teach patriotism. I particularly like the idea of using the Bill of Rights to teach our children. “Formal study of the Constitution of the United States often begins in grade school, but the guarantees of personal freedom that the first few amendments detail should come as no surprise to the young student who has seen the Bill of Rights demonstrated and respected in his own home. In fact, several thoroughly enjoyable and informative family home evenings could be spent in relating the Bill of Rights to family responsibilities and relationships. If not all of these basic amendments are directly applicable to the home, a surprisingly large number of them are precisely meaningful in a family context. For instance, Article IV talks about the rights of privacy and personal possession which citizens of the United States should be able to count on. Using this as a starting place, parents might well involve their children in a frank discussion of the responsibilities as well as the privileges of having one’s own room – or even one’s own record player.
“As one develops pride in being accountable for personal possessions, he becomes able to appreciate the property rights of others and, finally, to accept appropriate responsibility for the upkeep of the parks, roads, and national preserves which he holds jointly with his countrymen. One sure sign that patriotic lessons are being learned is family sensitivity to litter in the areas that are part of the public domain.”
The article reminded me of several ways parents can teach patriotism. I come from a large family of twelve children, and my family lived in a small home with little personal privacy. Each child had one or possible two dresser drawers that were sacred. Our parents insisted that we respect the privacy of our siblings and parents by staying out of their dresser drawers. This simple lesson – emphasized over and over – taught me to respect the property and privacy of other people at an early age
Another personal example happened this summer when my daughter brought her four children to visit for a few weeks. My four-year-old grandson calls the Stars and Stripes “the America. Each morning when I put the American flag out, my grandson insisted that we say the pledge of allegiance to the flag, and he knew the pledge.
I encourage you to read the entire article, which ends: “We arm our children against those who would demean patriotic sentiments – or even constitutional government itself – by demonstrating our own identification with those political, economic – and especially – religious principles upon which this nation is founded.”
When we understand and live patriotism, we can teach our families in word and example to love and appreciate our nation. By teaching patriotism, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations.