Antiques, friends and partriots
These three things might immediately not seem to have anything in common.
Antique: a collectible object that has a high value because of its considerable age
Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection
Patriot: one who loves and supports his or her country
These are the dictionary definitions of each word. On the surface, they are pretty straightforward and understandable. However, words and definitions, like human beings change over time and with considerable usage. They change meaning at our individual level all the way up through the broadest application in language.
“One person’s junk is another person’s treasure” is a statement often applied to the extreme variability of the definition of antiques. One might think that an inanimate object would be easier to define in terms of value. But, myriad are the examples of some poor, uninformed soul tossing out a Van Gogh or some sucker paying out the nose for a “priceless artifact” that has no real value.
Friends and patriots have a little more in common. Although similar sayings have been made about both. My HS sociology teacher taught us that without closely scrutinizing people, one person’s friend is another person’s acquaintance. He walked us through an entire semester of understanding how casually many of us use labels like friend because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Liberal application of the term allows us to have stable of friends that makes us wonder why we don’t have paparazzi chasing us down on a daily basis. I learned the difference from this teacher and was able to apply scrutiny to the definition of my relationships for awhile. Then came Facebook. Suddenly, we’ve relaxed society’s standards for friendship not just each of our own. Suddenly, it’s an oxytocin-induced competition to see how many friends one can have. Even though I have a FB account for my own reasons, I’ll stick with ny HS teacher when it comes to defining a friend. My two coauthors are in that very select group for all the right reasons. The most important of which are that they support me when I need it and they call me out when I need it.
That second action is much tougher and far rarer in friends. It’s easy to say your a friend in good times, hang out and enjoy the benefits of each other’s company, and soak up the figurative sun. It’s a little harder, but still manageable as a fake friend, to support someone when times get tougher. The level of support required as determined by the difficulty of the circumstances helps illuminate the reality of our friends’ commitment to the true definition. However, only true friends will call you out and help you improve when you’re screwing up and perhaps blind to your own shortcomings. Fake friends will help you rationalize (rational lies) and deflect the blame on someone else rather than say what you need to hear and make you take the tough road of self-improvement.
The same applies to a patriot. Today’s political and social environment is ripe for “patriots” on both sides of the political spectrum to defend “their” country and protect “their” way of life. One person’s patriot is another person’s freedom fighter right? One thing I know is that our country isn’t perfect…it’s history’s greatest, successful experiment in governing and the experiment continues. That means we constantly have some work to do in making things the best they can be for everyone. That doesn’t mean we blindly defend the status quo. It doesn’t mean we suppress another person’s perspective because they aren’t “respecting freedom.” Like a true friend, a patriot supports our country when it needs it and calls it out when it needs it. I hope that never changes and I hope we can return to doing that in a civil, friendly environment that allows us all to get better together.