What does it mean to be patriotic? Take a road trip and find out

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There is something patriotic about a road trip. Not the annual drive to the beach two hours away with a Pajanimals video playing for kids in the back seat. It’s when you drive to a place you’ve never been before. Something transcendental occurs when you concentrate on the road. You meet challenges and you don’t quit until you get there.

This past summer, my family relocated from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the CSRA. Three times I made the trip on Interstates 10, 65, 85 and 20, taking in parts of the country for the first time – then a second and third time. Each time I passed signs in Alabama to Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, the Tuskegee Heritage Museum and the Confederate Memorial Park, I thought of those who went before me.

It’s easy to take for granted the ease with which we travel between states. Not once during my triple tri-state odyssey did I have to take out papers at a checkpoint. I was not required to travel with a male escort (at 18 months, my son probably wouldn’t qualify). This is not the case today in other countries. This was not the case 50 years ago if I was anything but a white male. This would not be the case if, 150 years ago, the Union had not been preserved.

DURING THIS YEAR’S commemorations of converging anniversaries – the Civil War sesquicentennial of 1863 and the Civil Rights Movement’s watershed moments of 1963 – it is important to recognize that the turning points of these tumultuous years were not inevitabilities. We take them for granted because this is the history we inherited. Things could’ve gone either way were it not for vital agents of change at the right place and the right time, working tirelessly and in unison for a more perfect union.

Turning points 150 years ago:

• Going into Gettysburg, Pa., Robert E. Lee had the upper hand. Federal troops had a major change in command two days before battle. They were beaten back the first day but would triumph in the end. This victory, plus Ulysses S. Grant’s simultaneous success in Vicksburg, Miss., changed the course of the war.

• In November, 11 months after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln would consecrate those who died at Gettysburg and redirect the purpose of the Civil War to incorporate “a new birth of freedom.” This tipping point, oiled with blood on the battlefield, changed our country’s destiny. It wouldn’t have happened without the preceding decade of an evolving social conscience and those who chose to follow their moral compass over state’s sovereignty and commerce.

Turning points, 50 years ago:

• John F. Kennedy addressed the nation, explaining his reasoning for sending the National Guard to protect two newly enrolled students at the University of Alabama, tipping the argument for civil rights from a legal issue to a moral issue for the first time at the federal level. We don’t always hear about the white students on the inside of the school who applauded James Hood and Vivian Malone once they made it past the governor, the state troopers and the angry mob on the outside. Students on the inside were “rolling tide” into the future.

• Two months later, the nationally televised march and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech would touch hearts and minds of all colors and creeds, advancing many Americans’ perception on race and equality – an effort 10 years in the making with activists across the country.

SEPT. 15 WAS THE 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, which took the lives of Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14; and Addie Mae Collins, 14. These young ladies – like so many other young people around the world caught in crossfire they neither deserved nor instigated – stir something deep within us. We all are a little bit diminished and emboldened when blood of the innocent calls us into action.

While we are wired to presume that right conquers might, we know political and personal realities are far more complicated. This does not mean we abandon the dream of a free and just society. It simply means we recalibrate our expectations so that we are prepared to put forth the necessary effort, time and sacrifice to cut through entrenched norms and special interests, if we truly desire to achieve something meaningful. “We’re not on a journey to save the world, but to save ourselves,” according to writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell. “But in doing that you save the world.”

We learn from our past; we evolve to meet the demands of our present; we instill the values of being informed and educated into our children; we celebrate our differences; we rally for the underdog; and we go on road trips. What better way to connect with the land of the free and the home of the brave? That’s patriotism.

(Marlena Bergeron, M.Ed., is a writer, educator and recent transplant to the Augusta area.)

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JimS 09/22/13 - 05:51 am
Flagwavin 'patriotism' and No Sacrifice!!

America's Free War's and No Sacrifice, of the present generations and passing costs onto the next while ignoring or giving lip service on the issues of the veterans' from, for Those Who've Served In, DeJa-Vu!!

"If military action is worth our troops' blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

"12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility

RM: "We got a huge round of tax cuts in this country a few weeks before 9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway. How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was free? Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about it, civilians. Go about your business." 23 May 2013

"Why in 2009 were we still using paper?" VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers "When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we've been operating on a six month wait for over a decade." 27 March 2013


"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." - Abraham Lincoln

Something never mentioned by those that did and those that fully supported the doing, The rubber stamping rapidly rising deficits started Before 9/11 and these wars and continued with right up to the collapsed economy!!

Deficits, especially huge, means the costs of wars and long term results from are passed on to later generations, present is all borrowed, DeJa-Vu all over again!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

Riverman1 09/22/13 - 06:47 am

"Not once during my triple tri-state odyssey did I have to take out papers at a checkpoint."

If you drive very much in Richmond County you will run into these.

seenitB4 09/22/13 - 08:26 am
Our country tears of thee

Amazing ...so amazing to me....some actually think our freedoms started with the civil war era...nope --not true.

We forget so much & some have never served this country....I could list the wars we have fought but it probably wouldn't register to most in todays world....My dad served during World War 2.....I know what sacrifice is......we could be speaking German if not for some very brave men of years ago......odd thing , but just last week I saw an email showing a box of wedding rings taken from concentration camps jews...it made me cry.......look at the big picture & look at the WHOLE picture......we have all suffered in some way.

Riverman1 09/22/13 - 08:57 am

SeenIt, that's a powerful comment. I was thinking along those lines, but could have never have said it as you did. Minorities of all kinds would have been leaving wedding rings if the Nazis had won.

seenitB4 09/22/13 - 09:05 am
Thanks Riverman

That means a lot coming from you.♥

deestafford 09/22/13 - 10:14 am
Today, the most neglected era of our nation's history is that of

the Founding. So many want to concentrate on slavery and civil rights but they do not understand what it took to Found this country, birth it, and keep it alive.

People today do not understand how special those who gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 were when they bought about the greatest country in the history of the world. School kids can tell you all about MLK but cannot tell you about George Washington without whom there would never have been a USA.

Let's put emphasis on how we came into being and less on what is used by the racial pimps and hustlers to divide us.

I saw some information the other day quoting an Hispanic activist how the new wave of Hispanics want to stay with their culture and continue to speak Spanish and not become Americans as had previous generations of Hispanics. To them our motto of, "Out of Many, One" means nothing to them. They just want to move the border north...maybe all the way to the Canadian border.

We need to emphasize early American history so people know from where we came.

Sweet son
Sweet son 09/22/13 - 02:05 pm
Papers and Checkpoints!

Glad this writer had no experience with this situation as she traveled to be with us but that is not the case in our south western states. We even have border check points that are miles away from our border with Mexico. To see how to handle one go to Youtube and search "US border checkpoint refusal."

September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month.

Know the symptoms of this deadly disease!

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