Letter: Partying is not patriotism

Letter: Partying is not patriotism


As a native Bristolian who now lives somewhere else, I congratulate all Bristolians on another successful celebration of America’s Independence Day — and I ask you to stop this shameless self-promotion as America’s most patriotic town.

There are three things about patriotism Bristolians need to keep in mind:

  1. Patriotism is much more than parades, flags, and red, white and blue bunting and pavement stripes.
  2. Proclaiming any town the most patriotic town in America denigrates the patriotism of every other community in America and the people who live in them.
  3. Patriotism is not a contest where one community wins and all the others lose.

Read one Bristolian’s response to the letter here.

The national D-Day Memorial in Befdord, Virginia, offers an interesting perspective. The memorial is located in Bedford because on D-Day, that community of 3,000 lost 19 men — in one day, a total of 22 in the Normandy invasion. “No community…  in America… lost as many sons as Bedford.” * Who will be the one to deliver the news to the people of Bedford that their patriotism is second-rate?

Bristol has a long, varied, rich history that is, for the most part, a source of great pride. It holds the unbroken and unchallenged record for annual Independence Day celebrations, doing so since 1785, in a manner today that is unrivaled by any other community in America. It is the patriotic celebration, of which Bristolians are justifiably proud, that should be proclaimed — for its longevity, inclusiveness, breadth of events, community fundraising, reunion and all-around good fun.

Time-honored patriotic celebrations, no matter how well-intentioned or well done, do not equate to patriotism. If they did, by that logic, Catholics of New Orleans could claim to be the nation’s best Catholics because their annual multi-day Mardi Gras celebration is the best pre-lenten party in America. Or Catholics of Rio de Janeiro could proclaim themselves the world’s best Catholics because their annual Carnaval is the world’s unrivaled pre-lenten festival.

Not by accident does the Welcome to Bristol sign in front of Roger Williams University read “Home of America’s Oldest Independence Day Celebration.” Bristolians should stick to facts — commemorating America’s Independence Day is what you do better than anyone else.

Thomas C. Brown, Jr.
Alexandria, VA
(Copyright 2014 Thomas C. Brown, Jr.)

* Alex Kershaw, The Bedford Boys, (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003) p. 208


  1. Totally agree with the writer, go to a town with a large base such as Fayeteville NC, or some small towns i the panhandle of FL with Navy or Air Force families. Flags all over just like Bristol, events around important days in the nations history. The forth of July in Bristol is just a town wide event that is not even RI’s top summer happening. if your not from Bristol you go to the parade once or twice in a lifetime and the beach most other July 4ths. Have fun on your day but there are a lot more events that day and many other days around America bigger than Bristols. By the way were there 200,000 people in town for the parade as this paper stated would be the week before? Do the math you are not fitting 200,000 bodies along that parade route… stop braving and just do your thing.

  2. Mr. Brown should take a chill pill and worry about real problems we all face. “America’s most Patriotic Town” is a slogan designed to draw attention to our town. It is not any attempt to denigrate anybody. There are towns who call themselves the Onion capital of the US, or other such attempts to draw attention. That does not mean that those promoting themselves are insinuating that other onions are no good. They are just promoting their town.

    Bristol has this reputation of having the longest running 4th of July parade. It is our claim to fame, so why not use it to draw attention to ourselves? It seems pretty harmless to me. And we don’t don’t anybody lecturing us about what real patriotism is and what it isn’t. Most Bristolians are perfectly aware that flag-waving is not proof of patriotism. Sacrifice, like our veterans have done is one of the measures of patriotism. There are many more including Bristol’s tradition of volunteer public service.

    Mr. Brown, your criticism is not particularly astute or relevant. Mostly, it seems very petty and devoid of perspective. I suggest you lighten up and smell the flowers. There are worst things in the world as a town’s self promotion.

    Peter Calvet
    Chairman, Bristol Redevelopment Agency

  3. I agree with Mr. Calvet. Let your hair down and have a twinkie. Wow! With all that’s going on in the world you’re going to try and strike on a small town. My home town and proud to call it that. I wouldn’t have wanted to be raised any other way. With high morals, close family and friends and high patriotism. Your jealously shines through your words. Bristolians have much to be proud of and show it. If you don’t like it, don’t visit and sure as heck stay in your own boring backyard. I love my small town. I’m proud to be 100% Portuguese and proud of my heritage.