What is one's patriotic duty? For some, it means serving one's country through military service. For others, it's volunteering in one's community. Still for others, it's shopping. "Buying American" for instance is based on patriotic values. By buying American-made products, we support our industry, our economy, our country.
Thus, "patriotic duty" can mean any number of things and a quick Google search will find that many take this phrase and use it for their own purpose. From satire to true social commentary, the term is commonly seen and it's no wonder that some of us may be confused as to what exactly "patriotic duty" means.
As you can imagine, there are a number of valid interpretations for the term. After all, one's "patriotic duty" is at its core, action done in support of one's country. Thus it can mean military service, writing a letter/blog, or volunteering at a polling station in your home town.
While we as citizens can debate on what it means to do one's patriotic duty, I think the definition is pretty straightforward. In the end, when distilled to its essence, the definition is dependent on the term "patriotic." What does it mean? According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2006), being "patriotic" is:
1. characteristic of a patriot
2. expressing or to be inspired by patriotism
Thus, it becomes necessary to understand what it means to be a patriot. Based on the same source, being a "patriot" is:
1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
Thus, a political commentator may feel that it's his/her patriotic duty to assess the country's stance on foreign and domestic policy. An educator may feel it's his/her patriotic duty to help students ready for the future. An athlete may feel it's his/her patriotic duty to partake in international competition.
As you can see, patriotic duty can manifest in a variety of ways. However, the foundation of each is that the individual believes that he/she is acting in the best interest of the country. The main point is that the citizen does not act in a way that harms said country. Support, love, and devotion for what one's country stands for is in the end, what drives an individual to do what they do.
Finally, in an election year, one's "patriotic duty" is often said to be to vote. To vote is to respect the history that granted us that privilege. To vote is to help the State choose a leader that will be a positive for the nation. Whether or not your candidate wins is beside the point. The point is that you used the voice that was given you. Thus, even if you end up on the losing side, you nonetheless took part in (and contributed to) the patriotic process.