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Op-Ed: Patriotism July 4, 2012

In the last two weeks, the Supreme Court has allowed police in Arizona to demand proof of citizenship from people they stop on other grounds (while throwing out the rest of Arizona’s immigration law), and has allowed the federal government to require everyone buy health insurance — even younger and healthier people — or pay a penalty. 

What do these decisions — and the national conversations they’ve engendered — have to do with patriotism? A great deal. Because underlying them are two different versions of American patriotism. 

The Arizona law is aimed at securing the nation from outsiders. The purpose of the heatlhcare law is to join together to provide affordable health care for all. 

The first version of patriotism is protecting America from people beyond our borders who might otherwise overrun us — whether immigrants coming here illegally or foreign powers threatening us with aggression. 

The second version of patriotism is joining together for the common good. That might mean contributing to a bake sale to raise money for a local school or volunteering in a homeless shelter. It also means paying our fair share of taxes so our community or nation has enough resources to meet all our needs, and preserving and protecting our system of government. 

This second meaning of patriotism recognizes our responsibilities to one another as citizens of the same society. It requires collaboration, teamwork, tolerance, and selflessness.



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