Words by Dustin Graziano
Illustration by Katie Herchenroeder
Today is Presidents Day, a holiday established in the 1970s by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which allowed for more three-day weekends amongst the U.S. working class. The holiday has had a long history of meaning, stemming from the annual celebrations of George Washington’s birthday throughout the nation during the 1800s.
Currently, Presidents Day is celebrated by several people in this nation. However, there are some people who just appreciate the day off and might not care, and there are others who find the holiday to be pointless. Often, this all depends on where people stand as far as their patriotic values. The same concept applies similarly for other American holidays, such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day. So the question is, what exactly is patriotism?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patriotism as the “love for, or devotion to, one’s country.” Well then, what does it mean for one to love one’s country? The answers to this question vary based upon who you are asking, sometimes to an extreme. Patriotism holds different meanings for several different people.
Angela Harden is a Professor in the Media Communication Department at City College. She is also the General Manager of WHCR, 90.3FM, a local Harlem radio station owned by CCNY. “To me, patriotism is supporting or fighting for the rights of all Americans… Wanting everyone to have food, clothes, shelter, and a way of supporting themselves. That’s patriotism,” she said.
Professor Harden’s opinion is one that many Americans would agree with. Not only does this concept apply for American patriotism, but for other countries as well. In this sense, patriotism is the collective effort of the individuals within a society in order to better all their people.
An interesting point was raised when sophomore Primo Ledeboer Gill was asked about patriotism. “I think patriotism is simply loving your country… which doesn’t mean that you can’t doubt it. I think you can still be patriotic and doubt your government,” said Gill, who is from the Netherlands. There are people in almost any country who may feel as though their leaders are not doing the best for the nation’s people, but does that mean that they don’t love their country?
“When our government goes awry, it is our responsibility as Americans to challenge that and to uphold the ideals of what America should be,” Professor Harden’s responded. Again, this same concept of patriotism could apply for any country where an overwhelming amount of its people are unsatisfied with their nation’s leaders, or how they go about governing.
Aldhair Merino, a Cadet in the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at City College. Merino’s parents came to the U.S. from Mexico, raised another interesting nuance. Currently, the U.S. consists of people whose ancestors have immigrated to the U.S., and of people who have immigrated to the U.S. themselves. Merino shared, “When people come to this country, many want to make it here. They want to succeed. They want to do something here that they couldn’t back home. That’s a form of patriotism,” said Merino.
How much does an immigrant from another country love the country they immigrated to, and how much do they love the country they immigrated from? The answers to these questions also differ widely, considering the vast amount of reasons that people immigrate from one country to another. However, Merino’s final thoughts provided some advice for this Presidents Day, “The thing about patriotism is that you have to internally know what that means for you… You have to focus in on who you are, what you want to do, and why you want to do it for whatever country you may be a part of.”