The Founding Fathers wanted us to pursue whatever it is that brings us happiness, and on this July 4th — the one day that brings right and left, Republican and Democrat, old and young, rich and poor, black and white together to celebrate our independence, we put aside our differences to share the one thing that in the end, we have in common: a love of country.
Love of country manifests itself in ways big and small. The biggest example of patriotism, of course, is the brave men and women who wear our country's uniform and risk their lives so that we can be free. So far this year, 72 Americans have given their lives in Afghanistan, the longest war in our history. As we lay by the pool, pop open a cold beer, and watch fireworks, let's remember those who, as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, "gave the last full measure of devotion," and pledge to their memories "that these dead shall not have died in vain." It will be a difficult day for their families and we honor them too.
Fifty-two law enforcement officers and 62 firefighters — a number swollen by Sunday's Arizona tragedy — have died on the job this year. Let's take a moment to thank them for the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe. It too, will be a difficult day for loved ones left behind; we honor them as well.
But patriotism and love of country take lesser forms that aren't definable by wearing a uniform. Indeed, just about everyone in this country considers themselves a patriot. Asked in a Pew Research study if Americans agree with the statement "I am very patriotic," vast majorities of every conceivable group said yes.
Consider how many Americans consider themselves patriots.
- 94 percent of Republicans
- 85 percent of Democrats
- 90 percent of Independents
- 89 percent of men
- 88 percent of women
- 79 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds
- 90 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds
- 92 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds
- 94 percent of people 65 and older
- 93 percent of whites
- 77 percent of blacks
- 80 percent of Latinos
- 85 percent of those with a high school degree or less
- 92 percent of those with a partial college education
- 91 percent of those with a college degree
So here's the upshot: We're all patriots, or most of us anyway. Love of country, service, sacrifice. There's a perception that the social fabric that weaves us together as a nation is fraying and coming apart. I don't buy it. Americans have big problems, but as a nation, we've endured far worse: the Civil War, the Great Depression. The hell of 1968 when our best and brightest were assassinated, our cities burned, and war tore us apart. Even as recently as 2008 when we were in freefall. We have overcome much. Let's take a day to celebrate and pat ourselves on the back. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of… whatever makes you happy.