I didn't grow up in a family that was very outwardly showy about patriotism. However, both my parents were civil servants (a nurse and a teacher) and my maternal grandfather fought in WWII, and those are incredibly loyal and patriotic acts, in my opinion.
I grew up in rural Connecticut, an area totally saturated in colonial and Revolutionary War history. I can remember the first time I actually felt patriotic, and it wasn't until high school, and what's more, it wasn't even in Connecticut or anywhere remotely near. It was in Dallas, when I danced in the halftime show for the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day, and watched the Rangerettes do their routine when I thought "Wow! America, I'm really feeling you now!" I really loved their midcalf white boots. Girls, you looked sensational.
For lots of reasons, I always thought flashy shows of patriotism were for people who owned jacked-up pickup trucks and drank cans of Budweiser at football games and owned gun collections. My parents were Honda accord drivers with a lifetime subscription to the New Yorker. We didn't do a lot of ra! ra! ra! for America. But I guess we actually did. We just did it in our own way, by donating regularly to the homeless shelter, campaigning for better local schools, and even being the only Athiests in town to help out every summer at the children's Bible camp.
In graduate school, I read a book of short stories by Perceval Everett called Damned if I Do. The story that stuck with me the most was about racial tensions in the deep South. It was titled "The Reappropriation of Culture," and it pretty much rocked my world. I realized I didn't have to own a gun collection to talk about how much I love America. You know what? I absolutely love the Redwood forests, the Gulf stream waters, and everything in between.
My ancestors came on the Mayflower centuries ago and my husband's parents split their time between the U.S. and Mexico on a regular basis. We've all arrived here in search of what is better for ourselves and our loved ones, or because desperation has driven us from where fate first placed us. The truest Patriots are the people who can recognize that no one of us has more right to American soil than any other. As Filipino-American writer Carlos Bulosan proclaimed, "America is in the heart."
E pluribus unum, everyone! It is nearly Independence Day, yet again.