Who is a patriot?

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jul 26, 2019

We are again -- as we have been in this country innumerable times over the decades -- embroiled in a national argument over what patriotism is and who is entitled to claim that they love this country.

That's one of the main strands underlying the public barney between President Trump and the four U.S. representatives, all women of color, he chose to rebuke for their criticism of his administration. I remember well the calls for those protesting the Vietnam War to "love it (the U.S.) or leave it," and before that, there were those who thought black Americans demanding civil rights should be "sent back" to Africa.

It is the familiar call of those who benefit from an exploitative system in response to others advocating an end -- or even just a reduction of -- the exploitation. Gay people who want civil rights are either asking for "special rights" or "shoving their sexuality down the throats" of their fellow citizens who are comfortable with a society that discriminates against LGBT people. Those who acknowledge their neighbors who celebrate mid-winter holidays other than Christmas by wishing them "happy holidays" are perpetuating a "war on Christmas."

And those who say out loud in public that the United States is pursuing a wrong policy, that it has a history of pursuing certain kinds of wrong policies, such as supporting authoritarian governments abroad for the benefit of American companies doing business there, or for other strategic reasons -- those people should "go back where they came from," because those in power don't want to hear from them.

Is this really what we should expect of people who profess to love the United States? Unquestioned loyalty? Support for whatever the government does, without regard to right or wrong? Is the president right merely because he or she is the president?

We wouldn't ask that of our friends or family. We may not like to hear that we are wrong or have messed up in a major way, but when we've recovered from the embarrassment of having it pointed out, our relationship with them is stronger because of their honesty. Flattery may make us feel good for the moment, but we know we can't trust people who only flatter us, who never disagree or point out our mistakes and flaws.

The same is true of citizens -- and politicians. Those who never bring up hard truths, who never goad us to be better than we are, don't really love their country. They wrap themselves in the flag for personal or political advantage, telling their supporters only what they want to hear.

It seems to me that true patriotism, like marriage, is hard. It calls us to work towards a common vision of a better nation -- more prosperous, yes, but also more inclusive, more just, more compassionate. That is a patriotism that welcomes and values honest critics, because they, too, want the best for all the people of this country.

Patriotism that can't stand to hear the country criticized is mere chauvinism or jingoism.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 29, 2019 14:15

"The Common Good", have seen that in four different places today. When that happens I have learned to pay attention and what led me to this thought: "
Impeachment won't change a thing; nor the 2020 election. It is a change of heart our country needs.
May it begin with me. ;(

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 26, 2019 13:45

As to rights for all, there’s a meme that says it best to those that would deny rigths of others..

“Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you, it's not pie”.

It seems those that complain the most believe the opposite is true.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 26, 2019 13:35

A-Men Sarah!

Posted by: Steven Cornforth | Jul 26, 2019 12:07

Well written Sarah. I couldn't agree more.

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