WHAT IS AMERICAN PATRIOTISM?
PATRIOT DAY-September 11, 2012
by Doug Stringer
September 11th has become known as Patriot Day, a day for remembering all those who were
impacted, injured, or who lost their lives during the tragic terrorist attacks against the U.S. on
September 11, 2001. (Note: Patriot Day is different from Patriots’ Day, a holiday observed in
both Massachusetts & Maine on the third Monday of April to commemorate the battles of
Lexington and Concord fought near Boston in 1775.) The events of that fateful September
morning left an indelible imprint in the hearts and minds of our nation’s citizens. Nearly every
nation was impacted that day. In many ways, the whole world will never be the same.
Amidst the heart-wrenching stories that emerged from 9/11, there also emerged stories of great
heroism: the valiant firemen, policemen, rescue workers and citizens who rushed to rescue the
victims, many of them losing their own lives in the process of trying to save others. Although the
fates of many were sealed as the towers collapsed, rescue workers labored for days in the faint
hope of finding some of their brethren alive beneath the chaos and rubble. The passengers on
Flight 93 made a conscious decision to give their lives in a crashing plane in order to spare the
lives of many. Blood donors from around the nation responded to the call on 9/11, mirroring the
greatest act of love ever—Jesus Christ, who gave His own blood so that we might live. He was
also the greatest of firemen, giving His own life to rescue perishing humanity.
Each of these public servants, volunteers, and everyday citizens who responded became
modern day heroes—Patriots.
What is a Patriot?
What is a Patriot? One definition of the word states that a patriot is someone who feels strong
support and is a strong defender of and for his or her country. There have been patriots
throughout our history, dating back to the birth of our nation, who defended not only our land,
but the values and freedoms we hold dear. But what happens when those values and freedoms,
the very foundation of our nation, begin to erode beneath our feet?
When I was a boy living in National City, California, just outside of San Diego, our school was
invited by the American Legion to enter a contest by submitting an essay titled “What is
American Patriotism?” This was during the Vietnam War when the country was divided and
many were questioning what true patriotism was. To my amazement and the astonishment of
others, when the winner for the essay contest was announced during our school assembly, my
name was called. Imagine—an Asian-American of Japanese descent receiving a gold medal for
an essay on American Patriotism.
For Love of Country
To this day, when I travel to various nations and go through immigration, some of the agents
look at me, then my passport, then back at me. I jokingly say something like, “I know. How does
someone with an American sounding name look so Asian?” I usually have to explain that I was
born to a Japanese mother and a father who was stationed in Japan in the US Navy.
Years after coming to the U.S., my mother became a Naturalized Citizen. She was so proud to
become an American! After her citizenship ceremony, she received a small U.S. flag fitted into a
Pledge of Allegiance table tent-type card. She proudly set it upon our television set where it
remained for many years. Although she suffered through the tragedies of World War II as a child
in Japan, she understood the great value placed upon being a U.S. citizen. She loved this
country, as do I.
It is because of my love for our country that I grieve for the tragic and dangerous state our
culture is in today. It pains me to see how far we have digressed from our foundations and the
amount of disregard we have for the freedoms and liberties we have enjoyed. Let me say that I
do not believe we must always be in agreement to be patriotic, but I do believe we should show
respect and honor to those who give of themselves to serve and protect us. All of us are
beneficiaries of the many sacrifices made, price paid, and foundations laid for us to build upon.
The freedoms and liberties we so enjoy in the United States of America did not and do not come
cheaply. There is a high cost of freedom. I remember when my stepfather was stationed at the
Oak Harbor Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Washington State, there was a large
billboard just outside the base that read, “Pardon the Noise, it’s the sound of Freedom!”
Today, there are symbolic signs, sirens, and alarms that are screaming a resounding cry of the
state of our nation. Just a glance at the daily news reveals to us just how volatile things are and
that there is a battle for the soul of America and for a generation. We are looking for a sense of
patriotism, but the foundation our patriotism was built on is faltering.
Removing God from Public Display
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and ministering with Stephen Tchividjian, the
eldest grandson of Billy Graham. One of the things I remember Stephen saying was, “Rules
without relationship leads to rebellion.” This explains what we see happening more and more in
our nation today, as those who have no relationship with the God of the Commandments have
rebelled to the point of opposing any representation of Him in the public arena.
Statistics say the majority of Americans are favorable to public displays of the Ten
Commandments, nativity scenes, and other Christian themes. But it seems there is a minority
who are proactively using the letter of the law to coerce the majority to cower to the beliefs of
the few, banning any mention of God in public. Just the other night during the Democratic
National Convention, there was a vote to reinstate God into their party platform because He had
been removed. It took three different votes to pass the measure, but even the third time, there
was much dissension. Who ever thought there’d be a struggle in our nation to reinstate God?
Wow! The good news is that it doesn’t take God three times to force a consensus to reinstate us
into His platform. Our triune Holy God is already in agreement with Himself. No confusion there.
The tragic removal of God from the public arena has been seen in many places in various ways.
In 2004, a judge ruled that a Bible had to be removed from a public display on the courthouse
lawn in downtown Houston honoring industrialist William Mosher. Mosher was honored with a
small lighted display case in front of the courthouse for his contributions to the Star of Hope
Mission, which has served thousands of homeless, desperate, and destitute individuals and
families in the city of Houston throughout the years. The display, which is maintained by private
funds and individual citizens, included a King James Bible, honoring Mosher’s faith and love for
the Lord, which compelled him to do the work of ministry to others. A judge in 2004 ruled that
the Bible must be removed from the display after an individual complained that a Bible displayed
on public property was unconstitutional.
Only last year, at the Veteran’s National Cemetery in Houston, one rogue director censored the
language of pastors and chaplains saying that they could not mention God during funerals for
veterans. How outrageous! I shudder when I think about how many men and women buried
there were people of faith who gave their very lives to defend our freedoms—including the
freedom of faith which was now being stripped from them in their final resting place. My
Grandfather and biological father are both buried in that very Cemetery, having served this
nation proudly. In fact, both my father and step father died of military related cancers.
Despite these examples and the erosion of the values and freedoms we hold dear, I believe the
heart of the nation remains patriotic, not just those who give their lives on foreign shores, but the
many unsung heroes as well—teachers, doctors, nurses, pastors, and other community leaders,
who serve just because they love their country. Jesus said true greatness is in serving others
(Matthew 23:11). I can think of many friends who serve by washing the feet of others every day.
These are the ones I think of when I think of a patriot.
From Tragedy to Triumph
9-1-1 is the phone number we dial in an emergency. Emergencies are typically times of crisis
and desperation in which intervention is needed. While many remember 9/11 as a time of great
tragedy, crisis and despair, may we take what was meant for harm and turn it for good. It is time
for us as Patriots to bring a message of hope. We can see tragedies turn into triumphs as we
call upon the Lord in our times of crisis. As the words to an old song go, “Jesus is on the
mainline, tell Him what you want.” When we call upon Him, He answers with comfort, peace and
promise. It’s time for champions and heroes to arise with a message of hope. It’s time to call
upon the Lord. Let’s see what God can do when we call His 9-1-1.
God’s answer to humanity’s call was never depicted so wonderfully as through the work of the
cross and the price Christ paid to rescue us. He answered our 9-1-1 call by giving Himself for
us. One way we commemorate His perpetual gift of life is through our devotion and communion
with Him. “Do this in remembrance of Me” was the instruction to remember His high cost of love
for our freedom. We remember His great act of love and the tragedy by which that love was
bestowed on us. His tragedy brought our triumph.
With this in mind, may we also reflect on September 11, 2001. There’s something we can do.
We can rise up and rescue lives each day. We can be those everyday Patriots who demonstrate
the love of Christ to our communities, our nation, and around the globe by serving others.
Let’s give 9-1-1 a renewed meaning of hope and challenge. It’s time to answer His Call.
Founder & President
Somebody Cares America/International
Turning Point Ministries International