Tag Archives: patriotism


Democracy means governance emanating from the opinions of the people. And their willingness to serve that government.

To make that happen people must create a written system that gives them the freedom to establish a common good. 

The written system is a social agreement that ensures permanency and continuity over time.

In the modern world, constitutions, bylaws, and other social contracts are created to maintain the system. An aura of allegiance becomes part of the culture, frequently referred to as patriotism.

“Service” therefore becomes prescribed in terms of what we patriotically do in support of the system we created. In our case, service embodied in the American Constitution.

Patriotism as an exercise of loyalty to the system differs from the authoritarian processes humans originally created. In which a strong individual who is highly respected by the tribe is given the right to make decisions about everything from individual behaviors to the expansion of the culture.

Such allegiance is loyalty to a monarch or dictator and that leader’s national priorities. Service is measured in terms of how well one defers to the will of a single person.

Great Britain found a way to combine democratic and monarchial systems into one. But that novel arrangement was made possible by the monarchy giving away many of its traditional powers. Today, constitutional monarchies exist because the authoritarian leader agrees to do so in ways prescribed by the social contract.

British citizens can serve both the monarch and governmental system because their merger is, in their minds, mutually compatible. Americans are asked to serve the Constitution first and foremost. While that is true with American military personnel, they must also serve the wishes of the president, their constitutionally designated commander-in-chief.

Many proclaim to serve a symbol such as a flag. But symbols are only as meaningful as the system they represent. While I am proud of the American flag, I do not serve it. I serve what it represents to me as a citizen.


I am fascinated with other cultures, especially those associated with indigenous tribes once isolated from developing regions of the world. Anthropologists like to study small civilizations. To gain insights about how human beings build their communities within isolated areas.

While not extensive, my interest centered on the indigenous people of the American Southwest. I found the cultures of the Anasazi (Pueblo) descendants like the Hopi and Zuni most interesting. Primarily because I worked with their schools in the communities of Keams Canyon, Arizona and Zuni, New Mexico.

The idea of service among the Pueblo tribes is interwoven with the spirit world. The sanctity of the earth as our home. A commitment to family welfare. Family is not limited to biological connections alone, but rather to everyone in the tribe. Service is at the core of their societies, necessary for all to survive.

Service is not voluntary, because it is the purpose of life. Service is also provided by kachinas, who come from within the earth to heal and support. They are not worshipped but are seen as an integral part of human existence. Kachinas serve so long as human beings strive to help themselves.

When visiting the village of Zuni, I occasionally went into the church founded in 1629. Priests accompanied Conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, making it one of the first Christian churches on the North American continent. As with other cultures in the New World, the Europeans allowed their beliefs to coalesce with local traditions.

Today’s Catholic priests refer to that kind of merging as “drawing Christ from the culture.”

Around the turn of the century, my education consultant organization was asked to work with the Zuni schools.  To give them a model to locally control the content of their curriculum. Curriculum made difficult by the new federal mandate called No Child Left Behind.

Zuni children, like all American students, were to meet generic academic standards. And demonstrate their knowledge on standardized high stakes tests.

The NCLB model disregarded the values of the Zuni Tribe, even in the study of history. Unlike the church, our own government did not draw anything from indigenous cultures like the Zuni.

Instead, our nation tried to impose its values on people easy to dominate. A tradition that extends back to the mission of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ boarding schools that existed for a century.

I mention Zunis and other indigenous cultures, because a major difference between their cultures and ours has to do with service. For those groups service is the essence of life. Life is infinitely more than the possession of property and power over others.

Coronado, in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, went through Zuni and into what is now Kansas looking for material wealth. He never found it.

Gold and property eluded him, although he helped to open the door for Spain to gain more territory in the New World.

Which brings me to our culture’s penchant for overlapping political and economic perspectives. Propagated with the idea that democratic freedom is related to self-aggrandizing enterprise.


Politically, many Americans believe the perpetuation of our way of life depends on the fulfillment of economic opportunity. Like a modern-day Coronado who searches for gold and property for himself and his nation.

To those who hold such values it is important for ambitious people to be given as many opportunities as possible to acquire and hold wealth. Admired are the homes, lifestyles, and opinions of those who succeed in gaining wealth in a competitive free enterprise system.

Thousands of stories underscore this way of thinking and acting. As well as its frequently unfortunate outcome. A classic example of the failure of greed is The Great Gatsby, a 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Among many today, service is admired as being a kind of necessary sacrifice. For those inclined to offer it.  People who forfeit riches to assist those less fortunate.  

True or not, such charitable behavior is often accepted as a reason for a longer and more fulfilling life.

That was the message of a book written by Grace Halsell in 1976: Los Viejos: Secrets of Long Life from the Sacred Valley. The location is the village of Vilcabamba, Ecuador, in which people typically lived to be over 100. They served each other in their community. To quote one resident, they believed, “To live is to learn to die.”

Learning how to die means reaching the end of life with few if any regrets. Knowing that the giving of self is to serve others honorably. Similar to how our American society reveres its deceased veterans. 

As a journalist and speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson, Halsell knew about American power and wealth. She was struck by the shallowness of capitalistic values and manipulative techniques to acquire more. And to dominate through aggressive competitiveness.


Being a good American citizen is working toward understanding the complexity of our society. Of our politics and economic system. And doing something to make both valuable in the context of service.

Finding ways to serve. To continuously celebrate our nation’s accomplishments in bettering human life. To be a model for other societies that attempt to exist with service at their core.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


My service in the Army was not from an interest in conquering, destroying, or killing. Not because of a fascination with weapons and the machinery of war.

Not to demonstrate superficial patriotism or allegiance to an American manifest destiny. Or a need to assert our cultural or political beliefs for the purpose of dominating others.

I served to assure our freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. The “Four Freedoms” often mentioned as rationale for our involvement in World War II.

For a Christian, war is antithetical to everything we hold sacred. Yet, to preserve those sacred values we must sometimes do what is necessary to stand firm. Then strive even more diligently to serve humanity in ways taught us by Jesus Christ.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day. Created in 1868, it commemorated those who died in the American Civil War. Flags were placed at the graves of soldiers killed in that awful conflict.

The word freedom had diverse meanings in that era. The nation was finally free of overt and organized military conflict. Most citizens lived their lives free from the possibility of violence promulgated by bands of marauders. Or other groups inspired by hatred and narrow belief systems.

Slaves were freed from bondage.

Americans freely expressed opinions and found ways to rebuild a broken nation. Just as Abraham Lincoln said in his famous Gettysburg Address:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln’s phrases, “under God” and “new birth of freedom” connected to his reference to “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Those aspirations were linked to the American Constitution. The glue that preserves the union under a watchful and caring God.

The word freedom, then, does not mean unfettered license to do whatever we want. Nor does it give those with personal ambitions mixed with rhetorical skills, charisma, and a perceived sensitivity to populist inclinations the right to marshal followers for the purpose of domination.

Our American system, with its effective “government of the people,” controls the ambitions of those who would convert the people’s freedom into an opportunity to exercise their own will.

Unfortunately, the 20th Century experienced too many ambitious leaders who dominated their own countries. They attempted to spread their ambitions and power beyond their borders: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Hideki Tojo, Mao Tse-tung, and a multitude of others.

God has given human beings free will. But its unrestrained application can bring misery to many. Unrestrained free will, if allowed to work against God’s will, destroys us.

Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 KJV).

Freedom, therefore, is not easy or unrestrained behavior. For the Christian, it is abiding by the teachings of Jesus. For an American, it is exercised within the limits of our Constitution and the body of laws emanating from it.

World War II was probably the greatest example of how we human beings can destroy ourselves. Especially if we allow those who assert their own sense of freedom as being more important than the freedom of others.  World War II directly or indirectly killed 85 million people. They died from violence and diseases caused by war-caused deprivations.

Americans have long held mixed emotions about all things military. We hesitated three years before finally seeing the need to enter World War I. Anti-war sentiment, led by famous people such as Charles Lindbergh, kept us out of World War II until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Those experiences changed our political outlook and behavior. One important outcome was the emphasis on continuing readiness. An intense ongoing interaction with the world community. Our intervention into the Korean War was based on containing the spread of Communism. Its results are still unclear. Even dubious.

In 1961 and 1962 I was an army officer participating in one of our country’s readiness efforts. Preparing to fight the USSR over the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile build-up. Later in that decade we moved beyond readiness and again tried to contain Communism in Vietnam. Armor could not be used effectively in the terrain of Vietnam, so I was not deployed.

As a Christian, I held deep reservations about serving as a combat officer. Fortunately, my service ended before deployment to a shooting war.

What sustained me during my years in the military were four phrases published during World War II. Later, these phrases were graphically depicted by artist Norman Rockwell:

The Four Freedoms:

  • The freedom from fear.
  • The freedom from want.
  • The freedom of speech.
  • The freedom of religion.

Those phrases aligned with the words of Jesus, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

The current Russian government and its military attack on Ukraine uses fear and deprivation to conquer another nation. Restricting free speech. Using the Russian Orthodox Church to make religion the tool of national pride. 

Memorial Day is more than honoring those who suffered and died. Rather, it is a time to acknowledge the values for which they sacrificed themselves. Values taught us by Jesus Christ Our Lord, who makes us free indeed.

Through Jesus we have no need to fear or feel deprived. Through Jesus we can speak our truth. Worship with the love and conviction we have in our hearts. Follow his commandment recorded in John 15:12, ”Love one another, just as I have loved you.”

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved