Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The word "patriotism" is commonly used today. Some use it as a tool to inspire and unite this country to do great things. Others use it as a weapon to tear down and create divisions.
A person demonstrates true patriotism through his or her meaningful actions. Patriotism should not be measured by one's stated stance on issues at the dinner table or on a call-in talk show. Nor should it be measured by whether a person wears a U.S. flag lapel pin or not. And no, it was not patriotic to spend money we didn't have shopping in the wake of 9/11, regardless of what the President said.
So why don't bicycle advocates use the "patriotism card" to promote our cause? A person on a bike is either riding for (1) exercise/recreation; (2) transportation; or (3) both.
Riding for reason number 1 fosters a healthy lifestyle, reduces stress, and undoubtedly reduces overall health care costs, the majority of which are paid by the taxpayers through Medicare, Medicaid, bad hospital debt tax write offs, and taxpayer funded health insurance premiums for federal, state, and local government employees and their families, as well as the military and their families.
Riding for reason number 2 decreases our dependence on foreign oil, decreases the demand for oil (which in turn will cause prices to fall, in theory), greatly helps the environment, and reduces the stress on our nation's road and highway infrastructure.
Riding for reason number 3 is, of course, a no brainer and the best of both worlds.
Given the benefits of riding to our "national security" and the state of our national health (all of which you knew already anyway), I would argue that riding a bicycle is one of the easiest things a person can do to be patriotic. If people are going to exploit this word to further political agendas, the least we can do is use it to promote something meaningful, healthy and productive.
So, if anyone from the League of American Bicyclists or Congress is reading this, go ahead and use my idea. For free. I hope to see "bicycling is patriotic" billboards by the time gas hits $6 a gallon. Just give me the credit, and maybe a few flag lapel pins.