What is true patriotism?

This is the month when Americans really show their patriotism, right? Lots of loud, bright fireworks, flags waving in the sun, red, white and blue frosted cakes – all to remind us what a great country we have.

We go to Fourth of July sales at the markets and furniture stores. We set off illegal fireworks surreptitiously in our back yards. We wear Stars and Stripes T-shirts and blue jeans.

I get tears in my eyes myself when I see Old Glory displayed and proudly saluted as it passes by in a parade.

But all that is symbolism and ceremony. It isn’t true patriotism. That takes work and, yes, sacrifice.

First off, I submit that one of the most patriotic things one can do is proudly pay the taxes we owe. Why? Because when we pay our taxes, we are saying to those that gave their all, “We will continue to support this great nation.”

In many ways, we have let those that die,  those who lie beneath the marble crosses in veterans’ cemeteries down, way down. We haven’t been the best citizens we could be. We haven’t always voted. And sometimes when we have voted, we picked candidates without knowing anything about them beyond the R or D after their names.

The least we can do is pay our taxes to support this nation, a gift to us from those who sweated and toiled and bled and died on battlefields throughout our history.

Let’ take a minute and think about who lies in those cemeteries, the men and women who could have been. The person who might have cured all cancers, or taught our youth a better way to live. Someone who found the most efficient way to provide renewable energy, or found a remedy for mental illness, or developed a new vaccine or better foods for our health.

The least we owe these people who sacrificed their lives for us is to honor their short lives with the monetary gift of taxes to support the necessities of a great nation:  infrastructure, the military, care for the elderly and vulnerable among us, law enforcement, a just judicial system, and so much more. Those things aren’t free of cost, no matter how much we might wish they were.

Those who cheat on their taxes, who fight against them tooth and nail, are not the patriots they claim to be. They wave their flags and spout platitudes, but their idea of patriotism is as empty as a bass drum.

Benjamin Franklin plainly stated, when asked what the founding fathers had given us, “A republic, if you can keep it.” In 241 years it has been freely given over to the moneyed corporations and welfare politicians. If millionaires and billionaires would pay their fair share in taxes, there would be no national debt.

People may say I’m a socialist or a communist, but I have been in business and worked the capitalistic system all my life. In one sense, there is no difference between socialism, communism and capitalism. It is just how the profits made by the people are divided up by those on top. Taxes aren’t evil, they are necessary to keep our freedom. Are you unhappy with the way our taxes are spent? Remember, we are the ones that sent those people to office, the ones making the decisions about spending. And that is the other big chunk of true patriotism: becoming an involved, active citizen.

If you don’t vote, don’t complain. If you vote out of ignorance, don’t complain. If you won’t take a few minutes now and then away from your TV and your Netflix and your video games to attend a local meeting or send an email to your representative or learn a bit about the Constitution and how our political system works, then I don’t care how loudly you sing the national anthem, you aren’t a true patriot.

Vote, participate, pay taxes – that is how you truly show your love for America.

Galen Larson writes from Cortez, Colo.

From Galen Larson.