Yesterday’s discussion of patriotism on About Fac
e pretty much reflected the view, that a patriot will seek to challenge authority when it impinges in human rights and liberties. My co-host, Dennis, defined patriotism as a crime that separates human beings into Us and Them. “If you look at the Earth from outer space, there are no lines dividing the world into different countries,” he said. Dennis has a point–the idea that we are different nations at odds with one another is the basis for any number of crimes and atrocities in human history. I argued that patriotism is not inherently criminal, only the uses to which it has been put by leaders of all nations. My analogy is the family. Your family is special but you can love your family without demonizing all others. At the same time you can also recognize your own and family members’ weaknesses without disrespecting your family.
For me, patriotism honors that which is good about a nation and the people who comprise it. That patriotism also seeks to change policies not consistent with the ideals on which a nation is founded. In the case of the US, the founders reflected Enlightenment ideas of liberty and humanity in the Declaration of Independence and then created a governmental system that provided balance against the all too human tendency to accumulate power at the expense of others. Those are the ideals I celebrate and defend as a patriot. The founders were all too aware of human tendency toward greed and power. Read their debates. They had no assurance that their system of government would work; only that it offered some protection against tyranny. The founders knew that it would be up to future generations to make that system work. As a nation, we’ve weathered many a threat without sacrificing our liberties. The present with its obscene war, secret government and “Unitary Executive” are yet another threat that patriots will recognize and challenge.
I can no better define patriotism than General and later US Senator Carl Schurz
The man who in times of popular excitement boldly and unflinchingly resists hot-tempered clamor for an unnecessary war, and thus exposes himself to the opprobrious imputation of a lack of patriotism or of courage, to the end of saving his country from a great calamity, is, as to "loving and faithfully serving his country," at least as good a patriot as the hero of the most daring feat of arms, and a far better one than those who, with an ostentatious pretense of superior patriotism, cry for war before it is needed, especially if then they let others do the fighting.