13 June, 2011
Authentic versus Bogus Patriotism
Patriotism is neither hollering the loudest nor feeling the proudest while ignorant of why one either hollers or feels pride. True patriots understand as does Cindy Sheehan that it is not patriotism when you simply say “My country right or wrong.”
Geography does not enthrall a patriot’s spirit, nor does a patriot’s spirit venerate real estate above principle. A patriot does not honor senseless violence, insufferable arrogance, or repulsive callousness simply because somebody tries to wrap them in the Stars and Stripes or paint them red, white, and blue. American patriots recognize that patriotism blooms in other nations even though the cultures, customs, and traditions of those countries alter patriotism’s content and forms of expression.
Patriotism is not a love of one’s fellow citizens and a hatred, fear, or loathing of all other nationalities. It is not frenzied flag waving and raucous shouts of “USA, USA.” It is neither wearing nor not wearing a flag pin on one’s lapel. Latitude and longitude do not circumscribe patriotism. Patriotism is neither strident, nor self-righteous, nor short-lived. It is thoughtful, temperate, and tenacious.
Patriotism tells each true patriot, to “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Patriotism informs one that if our country is worth fighting for and possibly dying for in time of war, we should highly resolve that it be worth living for and living in times of peace. True patriotism assures one and all that Carl Schurz was correct when he said - “I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”
Mock patriotism is either the last or first refuge of scoundrels, depending on the circumstances, while true patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than any other and loves its country enough to constantly call it to a higher plain. A true patriot understands and demonstrates that dissent is often the highest form of patriotism. Such a person knows that “Wrong is wrong no matter who says it” and that blind acceptance of official policy often betrays the great principles, profound purposes, and cherished promises that make patriotism a worthy virtue.
A truly patriotic perspective acknowledges that politics is too often obsessively partisan and too heavily dominated by what is advantageous to a party than beneficial to our country. This perspective willingly shuns the temptations of faction and emphasizes love of our country and our brothers and sisters over the clamor of the current cause célèbre. A genuinely patriotic perspective looks fondly back to the high points of our past and confidently forward to the bright promises of our future. This perspective understands that authentic patriotism is volitional. It is a conscious choice based on knowledge, comprehension, and commitment. Patriotism shows its bona fides through one’s words and one’s deeds not in the short term, but throughout a long twilight struggle against the common enemies of humankind – bigotry, hatred, ignorance, duplicity and greed.
A soundly patriotic perspective realizes that genuinely loving one’s country is not enough. One must also forego bitterness and hatred toward others while doing so. A sound patriotic perspective sees one’s country not as a certain territory, or array of mountains, rivers, fields, and forests, but a set of principles, purposes, and promises. Authentic patriotism is dedication and service to that set of principles, purposes, and promises. True patriots share Nathan Hale’s regret at having only one life to lose for their country, but also resolve to live their lives in service to the ideals that make their country worth loving. A proper patriotism swears allegiance not merely to one’s country but to justice, humanity, and a relentless endeavor to make our country honorable as well as prosperous and strong. True patriotism reveals itself not only by the pronouncements it makes, but also by precepts it remembers and the people it honors. Genuine patriotism understands that its purpose is to reclaim the soul of the Republic. When it stands and states that Americans can and must do better, it is not challenge to their patriotism, but a call for their embrace and exhibition of actual patriotism.
An authentically patriotic perspective cherishes America’s virtues and confronts America’s deficiencies. It does not boast its country will be the greatest; it vows its country will be the best. True patriotism holds a country that is good may well become great, but knows a great country will not endure if it ceases to be good. Sound patriotism understands the mores of the market imperil our ideals and institutions as they pervade our society. It realizes that a need to calculate the cost and profit of everything will render us oblivious to the value of anything including loyalty, honesty, courage, honor, and commitment to one’s family and one’s country.
A truly patriotic perspective agrees with George Washington –
"The name of American, which belongs to us, in our national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism.... It should be the highest ambition of all American to extend their views beyond themselves, and to bear in mind that their conduct will not only affect themselves, their country, and their immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn."
Therefore, with a good conscience the only sure reward and history the judge of their achievement, true patriots go forth to lead the land they love. Knowing that as they do this the energy, integrity, devotion, and fidelity they bring to this endeavor will illuminate the country and those who serve it. While hoping the glow from that fire will truly light the world.
We've got to stand for something or we'll fall for anything.