Opinion | What Does It Mean to Love Your Country?

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I have never felt so pitted against fellow citizens as I do now. I manage it by reflecting on Lincoln’s observation that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I resolve to mend divisions. — Joel Griffitts, Mapleton, Utah

You can’t love your country without loving your fellow citizens, and the truest expression of that love is the willingness to sacrifice for others. In a healthy society, that willingness to sacrifice would be distributed across the shoulders of many; in ours, it falls heavily on the shoulders of a few. Those who do the most for their country, who become social workers, public defenders, child care workers and teachers — to name a few examples — are punished for it with ever-increasing financial insecurity, poor-to-nonexistent health care, low social standing, and greatly diminished prospects of supporting a family or dying peacefully of old age. — Christopher Dueker, New Hampshire

I think of my love of the U.S. the same way I love my parents and son and husband, a sort of warts-and-all kind of love. I become disillusioned by the acts of hate now prevalent around us; particularly those acts of the state directed at Black citizens. What restores my faith? I look for the helpers. I jump on a League call or donate some time at the local dog shelter and remind myself of all the really truly good people in this wonderful, irritating country of ours. — Jennifer Spillane, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

I don’t take for granted the rights and responsibilities that come with our form of government outlined in our Constitution. I recognize the necessity of paying my fair share of taxes in order to provide infrastructure and needed services. When friends and family get compartmentalized in their political labels and we stop listening to each other, I get disillusioned. I manage it by taking a break, working in my garden, reading good fiction, baking for my husband and friends. My faith is restored by others who do the same and who refuse to give up. — Barbara Quijada, Tempe, Ariz.

I love my country because I wouldn’t be alive or be an American citizen without my great-grandfather leaving a life of poverty and starvation in southern Italy to come here. To love your country is to ensure that those less fortunate, like my great-grandfather, are given the resources and assistance they need to stand themselves up with dignity, create a new life for themselves here and become productive citizens who proudly and lovingly call this place home. I used to express this love by volunteering a lot more than I do these days: Answering calls on the AIDS crisis hotline in the early days of the epidemic, serving meals and giving Christmas presents to the poor and homeless. Today I mostly express that love by donating money. — David Joseph Ruyle, Dallas

To my surprise, reading the Bible in one year helped me see that we have always wandered away from God/good to worship gold. It is a constant struggle to return, but most people seem to continue to try. I am inspired by the words “in God we trust,” the golden rule — to love one’s neighbor as oneself, the dawning realization that here on earth we are all one another’s neighbors and the words Anne Frank wrote in her diary which continue to inspire decades after her death at the hands of pure evil and ignorance: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” — Lisa DeLille Bolton, Nashville

To love your country is to believe in its ideals. When I was younger, I would celebrate America on the Fourth of July, in a shirt with an American flag watching fireworks with my parents. I lost my love for America when I was 16 and Trump won the election. I woke up crying on Nov. 9 and the pain has never lessened. I think it’s dangerous to love your country so deeply. I am 20 now and my jaw feels permanently clenched. Do I have faith that things will get better in America? Ask me in December. — Emma Hinchcliffe, California

I have dual citizenship with Ireland and have seriously considered leaving America. But while I honor other countries, I love ours and cannot bring myself to leave. I want us to emerge from these terrible times stronger and more humble, resilient and focused on the common good, firm in the belief that Black lives matter and that we can rescue our planet from annihilation. I find faith in the decency of the American people and the hope of the American dream. — Kathleen A. Conway, Tempe, Ariz.

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