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  • COMMENTARY: What is a Patriot?

    In 2004 I married my passion for writing original rock with my love for America’s founding principles. The principles found in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    My goal is to inspire people around the world to learn about, think about and talk about individual liberty and to find positive, creative ways to help secure it. In 2005, I founded PatriotMusic.com so naturally, I’m often asked “What is a patriot?”

    Almost all dictionary definitions of a “patriot” give the denotation, but ignore the connotation entirely:

    Merriam-Webster Online:
    Patriot: one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.

    Cambridge Dictionary:
    Patriot: a person who loves their country and, if necessary, will fight for it

    Only one dictionary that I have found gets close but it’s in their second definition:

    Dictionary.com:
    1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

    2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

    Elsewhere in the world, “patriot” is virtually synonymous with “nationalist” but it has a very different meaning in the United States. Consider our unique history.

    Before the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, American colonists considered themselves subjects of Great Britain. But from the 1760s, the revolution against British laws and appointed British rulers in the Colonies had already begun. Americans were well acquainted with their rights as Englishmen and regularly cited the English Constitution in their defense.

    But this constitution was not a single document as we think of constitutions today, but rather a collection of writings and ideas which stemmed from the English Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and English case laws. Americans were also very familiar with the principles of Natural Rights and the writings of Enlightenment philosophers including John Locke.

    Taken as a whole, the beliefs behind the American Revolution are referred to as the American Enlightenment which led to a revolution against the most powerful military at the time and the birth of the longest-standing, freest Republic in human history.

    It’s a common myth that the population of the 13 American Colonies was led to revolution by a handful of Founding Fathers such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Adams, etc. In fact, this myth was created as propaganda by British aristocrats during the Revolution in an attempt to end it… by subjugating their subjects.

    They were rightfully very concerned that if the spirit of revolt against aristocracy was a large social movement, it would likely spread across the ocean to their other colonies and signal the beginning of the end for the Empire.  Blaming it on a handful of radicals leading the people astray was a comfortable explanation for those convinced of their natural superiority and right to lead by birth.

    They offered large rewards for the capture of these men believing that executing them would end the revolt. Aristocrats simply couldn’t see how thousands of people could independently rebel against aristocracy itself without having been manipulated into it by another elite group. They saw it through the lens of their own world: an attempted coup of one group of aristocrats over another.

    Another reason this myth partially continues today is because it’s easier to cover a handful of men in historical texts about whom records exist than it is to write about thousands of people we know nothing about except for their collective role in historical events.

    The beliefs which the United States were founded upon existed long before our Republic’s birth. It was a grassroots movement that spread like wildfire throughout the colonies and was fueled over and over again by British arrogance. By the above definitions, our Founding Fathers couldn’t have been patriots because they were rebelling against their own country: England. And there were no United States of America yet. How could they love or support a country that didn’t exist?

    Is it then inaccurate to refer to our founders and the nameless millions who rebelled against British tyranny as patriots? Should we call them “rebels” before the founding of our republic and patriots only after? But when were the United States founded? Was it on July 4th, 1776 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence? That event announced our break from Great Britain but it didn’t form a country to which all of the above definitions refer.

    Our first government was based on the Articles of Confederation. But that wasn’t until 1777. And it lasted until 1789, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. But imagine what our country would be like today without our Bill of Rights. And they didn’t go into effect until 1791. So what was it that our Founders talked about, fought over, and died for? And what’s the difference today between a patriot and someone who simply supports their country?

    The answer is that patriots understand and passionately support the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights because these documents espouse the ideas of individual liberty and offer a system to maintain it.

    “Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.” -Daniel Webster

    Patriots were and continue to be students of both history and political philosophy and know that basic rights are self-evident, granted by God (or nature), based on reason, and in need of constant defense against the natural tendency of government and well-meaning but misled majorities to eliminate them. In other words, patriots came first and founded the United States on their beliefs. Though they rarely agree on everything, just as our founders often disagreed on specific points, throughout our history, they have been united in the passionate support for our basic principles and willing to fight for them, usually to their own detriment.

    THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”  -Thomas Paine, December 23rd, 1776

     


    Matt Fitzgibbons

    Matt Fitzgibbons is founder of PatriotMusic.com, he is a multi-talented musician, historian, philosopher and 2016 political analyst.

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