Posted by: CarolAnn | September 17, 2009

Definition of an American: A Brief Glimpse of Patriotism

What is patriotism? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary® , a Patriot is defined as such: “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.”

So what does define a “real” American patriot? Let’s take a look into “real” American history…

A good example of ‘real’ American patriotism dates back to 1765. At that time, our country was being lead by the British government. Phrases like, “If this be treason, make the most of it,” and “Give me liberty or give me death” arose from a “real” American patriot, Patrick Henry. A political leader in the American Revolution, Patrick Henry denounced many of our “American” laws of the time, and was responsible for developing the first 10 amendments of our US Constitution. Patriot or not?

1776 brought us Nathan Hale.

Nathan Hale - Wikipedia

Nathan Hale - Wikipedia

Mr. Hale was famed for spying on our then-British-ruled country; was captured by the British and prior to his hanging said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Patriot or not?

Then we have Chief of the Shawnee – Tecumseh. Chief Tecumseh believed that all Native American land was the common possession of all the Native Americans, and that land could not rightly be ceded by, or purchased from, an individual tribe. Becoming allies with the ‘original’ American government – the British, Tecumseh commanded a massive force of Native Americans in the siege of Fort Meigs. He later lost his life during the battle of the Thames, led by General William Henry Harrison. Patriot or not?

Blackhawk, a Sauk Indian (Native American) was forced to fight the white militia and US Federal troops in 1832 over land. As a “war trophy,” our then President, Andrew Jackson made Blackhawk and his son prisoners and exploited them around our ‘country,’ as spoils of war. Even when Blackhawk passed away in 1838, the white “Americans” robbed his grave and stole his body. Patriot or not?

Sitting Bull - Wikipedia

Sitting Bull - Wikipedia

Sitting Bull, a less-talked about Patriot, fought US Army troops in the 1800s. He fought against General George Armstrong Custer (over gold) in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory. Sitting Bull’s reason for his Patriotic acts: preserving a sacred area to many tribes. Patriot or not?

Crazy Horse, another Patriot, was a visionary leader who in 1867, fought and destroyed US Army brigade of William J. Fetterman at Fort Phil Kearny. In 1876, the US Army ordered all Lakota bands confined to their American-bound reservations. Crazy Horse lead the real ‘American’ revolution against the US Army; joining forces with Sitting Bull, to become victorious at the Little Bighorn. However, Crazy Horse was eventually forced to surrender in 1877 due to US military harassment and buffalo depletion. Murdered by US Military officers in September 1877, Crazy Horse was a true American. Patriot or not?

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln in noted for his infamous Gettysburg Address, stating 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.” President Lincoln went against the grain of “normal” American life and American government via the abolition of slavery. Patriot or not?

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights’ movements.

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Wikipedia

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Wikipedia

Still remembered for his poignant speech, “…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Some of our American countrymen viewed Mr. King, not as a Patriot, but as a threat. In 1968, Mr. King was assassinated for his American Patriotism. Patriot or not?

Additionally, many American patriots are still left unrecognized. Only in 1985, were African Americans even acknowledged for their service to our country. As part of the Human Goals Program lead by President Reagan did we first gain widespread knowledge of African American Heroism…and patriotism. Most Americans don’t realize that our own US Marine Corps barred African Americans from their service in 1798, but were good enough to serve otherwise. Moreover, the American victory led by General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans was greatly assisted by African Americans. In a twist of bittersweet irony, the same African patriots who once helped in this great battle were not permitted to march in the annual parades celebrating the victory. Patriots or not?

What is the true definition of an American and patriotism? What you have just read defines none and all Patriotism simultaneously. Is it love for country or love of a country’s moral beliefs, policies and foundations? When one says, “I would die for my country,” what exactly is he dying for?

Upon reviewing just a few brief glimpses of American history, we can summarize that “patriotism” is in fact, love for a country’s greater good… or depending on the needs of the particular group, their greater good.

Perhaps we shall never know what a real “American” is or what defines an act of patriotism; however, I leave you with a quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning, American novelist, poet and critic – Robert Penn Warren: “A look at the past reminds us of how great is the distance, and how short, over which we have come. The past makes us ask what we have done with us. It makes us ask whether our very achievements are not ironical counterpoint and contrast to our fundamental failures.”

Some thoughts to ponder.

Definition of an American: A Brief Glimpse of Patriotism

by CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media Sorcerss
© 2004 – All Rights Reserved


*Sam Houston State University

*Yahoo Encyclopedia –

*Meriam-Webster Online Dictionary – Definition of Patriot

*Great Native American Leaders & Patriots

*PBS – The West – Sitting Bull

*PBS – The West – Crazy Horse


*American Patriots information derived from several American history texts and websites.


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