What is Patriotism This Fourth of July? A Lifelong Bucks County Peace Activist and Her Career Military Officer Husband Answer that Question

Bucks County Beacon contributors Barbara Simmons and Steve Nolan tackle this question for what for many will be a somber Independence Day.

Barbara Simmons, Former Executive Director of the Peace Center.

Our country is so fractured, that I am not clear on how we will come together to show our patriotism – since the meaning of patriotism is to work together for the betterment of our country. 

We are getting ready to celebrate the birth of our nation, yet I feel anything but celebratory. You see, I am now a second-class citizen, even though I was born and raised in this country. 

From 1789 to 2020, there have been thousands of opinions and judgments by the Supreme Court, but it has only reversed its own constitutional precedent 0.05 percent of the time. Yet, this SCOTUS has fast-tracked the reversal of precedent, and it appears they are just getting started

The Fourth of July typically brings family picnics and fireworks, but this year women’s constitutional right to reproductive freedom has been taken away. We now live in a country that only works for some … that is passing laws that limit voting rights, creates a hostile environment for the LGBTQ community, strips away the EPA’s authority to protect and address climate change, and many more destructive decisions.

We have millions of people who believe in a lie that the 2020 election was stolen. For the first time in history, we had a former president enroll supporters to attempt a violent coup. So many of us are still feeling traumatized by the violence that took place that day and the continued threats to those who are courageous enough to speak out about it. We now know the president knew his people were coming on January 6, that they were armed, and that there could be violence. Yet he did nothing to stop it. 

So how do you show your patriotism with this much national pain, a rising threat of domestic terrorism from within, and a Supreme Court taking down our checks and balances? 

How do you show your patriotism when guns have more rights than women

How do you show your patriotism when Brown and Black people continue to live with systemic racism and their voting rights continually under assault

Perhaps we need to look at Ukraine for an answer, to witness those willing to stay and fight for their country. I love my country and I too will fight for freedom for ALL, not just the wealthy and white. We will vote for leaders who will protect those rights. If we can’t find worthy leaders, we will run for office. If we can’t run for office, we will knock on doors, make calls and be allies for those without power, without a voice. 

That, to me, is the most patriotic thing I can do. 

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Steve Nolan, Major, USAF, Ret. Career military officer, Army and Air Force, Afghanistan veteran.

My wife and I have never co-authored anything before, but with two impeachments, and an insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States, it seems fitting during this time where we both feel great uncertainty. My wife has been a dedicated social justice advocate for decades. I had a career in the military. Yet, we’ve never asked one another that basic question: “What is patriotism?” 

In our families it has always been understood. Both my parents served in WWII, my mother earned five battle stars as a heavy casualty nurse, my wife’s father was shot three times by a Japanese Zero and miraculously survived. His younger brother was killed on Iwo Jima. My older brothers served in Vietnam and I served in Afghanistan.

I never thought I would see the day where members of Congress, merely facing the risk of re-election, could betray their oath of office. We have witnessed senators and representatives willing to join a cult of personality so malignant that even after failed impeachment (only because GOP partisanship now trumps justice) could still foment armed insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States. That so many members of one party could march behind a traitor, making a mockery of all the sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, of our Armed Forces personnel, boggles the mind. 

Yet here we are! 

Donald Trump, with the aid of our number one enemy, Vladimir Putin, fomented “Birtherism,” the “Deep State” canard, and finally the “Stop the Steal” lie. All of these fabricated conspiracy theories were designed to do exactly what the DOJ, the Senate and House investigations on Russian cyber warfare concluded: divide the American people and make us lose faith in the electoral process.

Patriotism can be defined simply as a commitment to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Until now, it is an oath that has applied to foreign enemies. However, it is the wisdom of the Founders who knew that the greatest threat would come from within. 

This Fourth of July, as we listen to true patriots testifying before and sitting as members of the January 6 Committee, let us be reminded that patriotism is not just an individual promise but one we make to one another to preserve unity, oust tyranny – whether a British monarch, or a malignant narcissist who recruited domestic terrorists and invited a violent putsch on our Capitol, which is the mark of Fascism (and our parents already fought that war).

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Picture of Special to The Bucks County Beacon

Special to The Bucks County Beacon