What Is Patriotism?

I honestly don’t know

What patriotism


But I know

What patriotism is not


I know that patriotism

Is not Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez


At 2 and a half years old

Committing the crime

Of seeking asylum

In the land of the free

Sentenced to death

At the US-Mexican border hospital

In El Paso

Patriotism is not

mass detention

of civilians

without trial

separating parent

from child


on floors

wrapped in silver blankets

like discarded milk chocolates

It’s not

Oscar Alberto Martínez

and his 23-month-old daughter

Angie Valeria

Blamed for their own deaths

For wanting

And believing

In the American dream

The Jewish holocaust

Didn’t start

With ovens

And gas chambers

It started with character assassination

Of a people

It started with words

Not too much unlike

Bad hombre



Secure borders




I used to believe


Was about

defending the Constitution

I remember pledging

My life

To defend the Constitution

One of two

Only living documents

In the world

but somehow

it became about a song

a misconstrued belief in soldiers

dying for freedom  

all wrapped up in a flag

because someone who believes

in the Declaration of Independence


their constitutional right

to be treated as equal

at a football game

I don’t understand

The epidemic of patriotism

When someone is asking to survive

Events that should not require surviving

Like driving with a broken taillight

Walking home 

armed with a sandwich

Talking on your cell phone in Walmart

Being 9 years old


With a toy gun

Or in the case

Of Philando Castile

Doing everything correctly

But having black skin

Puts a police officer

In fear for his life

Tell me how protesting

The national anthem

Is about the soldiers

And their sacrifice


Private Emantic F. Bradford

Sgt. James Brown

And veteran  

Everett Palmer

After pledging their lives

To defend the Constitution

Couldn’t survive an encounter

With police officers

In America


I used to believe I knew

What patriotism



All I know

Is what patriotism

Is not

We asked Rhode Islanders what patriotism means to them. Check out the article here: Our Country ‘Tis: To celebrate July 4, we asked modern Rhode Islanders what patriotism means to them and the video here: