FORMER Craven resident Graham Jagger has been living in the United States for three years; here  in his letter from America, he discusses Patriotism and how American children are taught to respect their country. 


PATRIOTISM and being 'a patriot' is something often heard mentioned here in the US and can mean different things to different people for different reasons.

It’s not something that I ever really remember being talked about during my life in the UK. Are English or British people patriotic? I think they are but not as openly expressive about it as people are here in the USA.

During my time in local government in the UK, I attended hundreds of council meetings, and I can’t ever remember “patriotism” ever creeping into proceedings.

Over the last 12 months I’ve been to several council meetings here particularly those of the new City of Mableton in which I live. The agendas always include two things that are unusual to my experiences back there. They are an “Invocation” and then the “Pledge of Allegiance”. The Invocation, or the act of asking for help or support, is often delivered as a prayer for blessing or guidance for those who are making decisions on behalf of their community.

The Mayor will invite someone to do that and they often have a connection with a religious organisation. So first, there’s a prayer and while I have been at annual council meetings in the UK where a prayer has been said, not at every meeting like here.

That’s followed by the “Pledge of Allegiance” which everyone is expected to say out loud. The words for this were originally written in 1892 and amended in 1923 and then again in 1954 to what it is today.

Today it reads “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”.

When this happens, everyone must stand and face the flag which is placed in the room at the front and have their right hand on their heart. I’m sure you will have seen American sports players stand in that fashion while the National Anthem is played.

For me, not being an American citizen, I stand like everyone else, but I don’t recite the Pledge or have my hand on my heart. I don’t feel that it’s right for me to do that under the circumstances.

Then we come to the question of “patriotism” and “patriots” which is linked to the pledge of allegiance and upholding the Constitution (which is a whole separate “Letter from America” itself) so what does this mean?

A “Patriot” is a person who has devotion to and vigorous support for one’s own country, showing love for your country and being proud of it. Are you, reading this, “patriotic” about your country? Are you proud of England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Do you vigorously support your country? And I don’t just mean when England are playing football, rugby, or cricket. I mean as a country in what it stands for and what it does in this world. It’s an interesting question and one I never considered needing to either ask myself or answer while living in the UK.

Now, no longer being there, it is something that I think about, and I am in fact proud and patriotic of my country of birth and it’s standing in the world. Interestingly, many people here are proud of their English/British heritage and are very open about that. Furthermore, many Americans are often envious of Great Britain and its history, traditions, reputation and influence it has on world affairs.

So, I think that people back there in the UK are in general quietly and reservedly in their own way “patriotic” with a small “p” whereas Americans are “patriotic” with a capital “P” and often let you know it.

The introduction to this issue of “patriotism” begins in school where children are taught to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and will recite it each day at the start of school. To some it may sound like indoctrination at an early age but here it’s an expected thing for everyone.

You are effectively taught to respect your country and what it stands for and to be a true patriot. People at the opposite ends of the political spectrum consider themselves to be the true patriots while thinking those at the other end to them are not, at least in the same way. For example, there are those who think that the people who attacked the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021, were “true patriots” for doing that then others, quite rightly in my humble opinion, believe just the opposite.

Many identify patriotism to be serving in the armed forces and defending the country and it’s difficult to argue against that when you consider the definition of patriotism as mentioned earlier.

“Veterans” here are often referred to as patriots and they are held in high regard here, much higher that those who served in the forces in the UK. There are many benefits available to Veterans and by that I don’t just mean Government benefits, but many businesses give generous discounts to anyone who is or was in the armed services no matter what their role is or was.

As such, their “patriotism” is being recognised across the board. This makes me think that the UK could do better for those in a similar situation there. My son, albeit having been born in the US and as such US citizen, served in the British Army in the Scots Guards and did so “patriotically” for his adopted country. I was very proud of him for doing that and seeing him on TV at Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade and on Whitehall for Remembrance Sunday was wonderful.

So, in conclusion, I would say that “patriotism” exists in both countries but is more openly and widely expressed here in the US than in the UK. From an early age, children here are taught to be patriotic which is quite different to what I ever experienced in my early years. I believe that I “assumed” to become patriotic as I grew older and became more aware of what the UK stood for. How about you?