Patriotism: An Elusive Concept

Written by Larry Usoff on January 7, 2020

When I was growing up, and probably from the age of 5 (which would have been the year 1939) it was becoming apparent, even to a kid like me, that there was something going on in the world…something BIG. America was helping The Allies, but had not yet entered the war… that was to come in two years.

As a kid I did all the usual things back then. I had a bike when I was big enough to ride one, and with my friends we’d ride all over the place. Once we all went to Prospect Park, which was about 8-10 miles from where I lived at the time.

My cousin, Jerry, was my idol. I thought he was the best thing ever. He could speak eloquently (at least I thought so) and was the absolute best at building model airplanes. He was handsome and, I guess, had no problem getting girlfriends. He always treated me like I knew what he was talking about… which made me feel really good.

By the time America was dragged into the war, December 7th, 1941, I was seven years old and a little bit more aware of things going on around me and in the world. My parents spoke of the war and, at one point my father got a wall-size map of Europe and we began to plot how the war was going… D-Day was far off in the distance, but there was North Africa to look at. We made tiny flags of the different countries taking part in the war, and we’d put them on push-pins on the map, so we kept track of how the war was going.

Now, here in the early part of January 2020, I’m in my upper 80’s and looking back to how I became a patriot. There’s probably as many definitions of what a patriot is, and patriotism, as there are people that will talk about it. In my case, seeing the flag, hearing march music, watching close-order drilling or a military parade, even just the first bars of the Star-spangled Banner, and I tear up. I weep, unashamedly, seeing members of the armed forces as they defend our country. Is that patriotism? I guess so.

Reading American history, and that includes the good AND the bad, makes me think about this country, and what we’re doing. We were once described as “the noble experiment” and a lot of people thought that our glory days were behind us. I have to differ. I think we just get better and better…and maybe that’s patriotism. One thing I DO know, patriotism has nothing to do with politics. Now and then the helm of the ship of state is handed from one person to another, but the course should never change. America is the new world personified, I think…a huge country with just about every type of climate and landscape that one could want. A nation where any one that really tries, CAN succeed, and live what’s been called “The American Dream”.

The saying is that old men talk about the past because they have no future, and young men talk about the future because they have no past… and I suppose that is true, in a way. There is, also, the possibility that old men talk about the past because some things were better then… and some things didn’t get better with age. Patriotism is one of the things that, somehow, didn’t get passed from one generation to another…and that’s a shame.

If you live in a country, you should respect the ways and traditions of that country, or find someplace else to live. America is a pretty tolerant place to live, but there ARE limits to tolerance. No country is going to accept people living in it that are plotting its demise. No government is, or shouldn’t, allow dissention to become outright sedition or an attempted coup. Patriots should be aware of what goes on in their country…and be prepared to step up and assist their nation.

So, patriotism is a lot of different things…to different people. To me, it’s standing by my country and keeping it safe, as much as it’s possible for me to do so.

Larry Usoff
Larry Usoff, US Navy Retired. Articulate. Opinionated. Patriotic. Conservative. Cultured enough so that I can be taken almost anywhere. Makes no excuses for what I say or do, but takes responsibility for them. Duty. Honor. Country. E-mail me at: