Joanie Gentry: Another American Bicentennial

Published 9:12 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If you were born before July 4, 1976, you have the completely obscure distinction of living through the bicentennial celebration of our American Revolution. I remember it well. I was just a young girl in junior high, but I took part in several functions commemorating the auspicious events that took place around the birth of our nation. A few of these events may not have been standard patriotic fare (I seem to remember participating in a bicentennial fashion show), but it didn’t seem to matter to me as most of them were stirring and important functions. The process of reliving the history of our country’s fight for independence right here in my own hometown made quite a good impression on me.

On June 18, 1812, we celebrate a second American bicentennial. We mark the date that we entered into yet another fight with the British, this time to ensure our continued independence: the War of 1812. The British were tired of their former colonies’ insolence and sought to put our “little experiment in independence” to an end, once and for all. So now, as I prepare to (hopefully) live through a second American bicentennial celebration, I find myself looking back to the events of 1976 and am struck by the fact that there is little to no local area buzz concerning upcoming celebratory events. I might even broaden that to our entire region or even the nation.

I hate to do it, but since it is so appropriate, I am going to quote George Santayana’s brilliant saying once again: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” We seem to be a nation of folks who have trouble remembering our past. The lesson we must never forget is that anything so precious that it is worth fighting and dying for must always be celebrated. It must be taught to our children so that it is a constant presence in all of our lives. And it must be communicated to our children by many different methods to ensure that its importance is understood. (Apparently sometimes seemingly silly things like fashion shows stick in young girls’ minds longer than classroom lectures or even parades. The point is that the celebration is presented in all sorts of ways.)

Granted, the lesson of the War of 1812 might seem less impressive in some ways than that of our nation’s birth. After all, the likelihood of the British overrunning our nation now with a view to overthrow us is pretty much nil. But let’s not forget that there are many other entities that are already in line today to take their place as aggressors against us on our own soil.

Patriotism is defined as love for or devotion to one’s country. Patriotism isn’t something we drag out annually on the Fourth of July, like the box of red, white and blue decorations we put up each year. Patriotism is a living thing that makes its home in the heart of every American citizen. Or at least it should. It’s an emotion, a commitment and a drive to protect America and Americans. In all its grace and glory as well as in all its turmoil, rage and struggle, I love America intensely. The leaders of our nation may not always model patriotism for us, but we can model it for them, and for our kids and grandkids.

As it turns out, the State of Michigan is looking for folks to help initiate and organize War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations in their local areas. If you are interested in making your love of our nation visible, please visit this website: or,4570,7-153-10369_59572—,00.html.