(I'll warn you upfront that this post carries a tone of frustration and annoyance at the narrow definition of 'patriotism' that I often encounter.)
I like to be patriotic. I think our national holiday is a good time to think about what patriotism is and how we can be patriotic. I do NOT think that the military is the be all and end all of patriotism.
There you have it. I'm sick and tired of people saying "well I wanted to serve my country so I enlisted..." By all means, support the troops. If you'd like to enlist, feel free! But if you'd like to serve your country, please remember that you can do it in many other ways too. My husband wanted to serve his country, so he became a school teacher. My friend wanted to serve, so she works for a local women's shelter. I care about my country, so I teach my children to take care of the earth we live on and to serve the people we live around. I care about my country, so I get involved with politics, and I always vote.
As I said, I support the troops--the men and women who get out and do things. I really don't support the military-industrial complex that the USA has developed. I'm a pacifist, conscientious objector, and so on. A friend of mine (who served in the military for several years by the way) has some very similar opinions about this. She wrote a great post here.
There's another thing that really makes me sick, and I hear it every Independence Day too: We live in a great country ("the promised land" yadda yadda yadda), and in fact it is the best country on earth. No it's not folks. We live in a great country, definitely. We in the United States have a lot of blessings and opportunities that are not available elsewhere. We have a lot of wealth (a ridiculous amount in fact). But we are not superior to other countries or peoples. More blessed (in certain areas), sure, but not superior.
Can we please learn to appreciate what we have without knocking down others in the process? Julie can be pretty without saying that Susie is ugly, you know?
That's all. Be grateful and happy with what you have. Work to take care of it and of the people around you. Remember that no one is inherently superior to anyone else, especially not because of being born between some transient manmade borders.