Patriotism is a devotion to one’s country. In a generalized sense applicable to all countries and peoples, patriotism is a devotion to one’s country for no other reason than being a citizen of that country. It is a related sentiment to nationalism, but nationalism is not necessarily an inherent part of patriotism. The English term patriot is first attested in the Elizabethan era, via Middle French from Late Latin (6th century) patriota “fellow countryman”, ultimately from Greek πατριώτης (patriōtēs) “fellow countryman”, from πατρίς, “fatherland”. The abstract noun patriotism appears in the early 18th century.
Samuel Johnson famously referred to patriotism as “the last refuge of the scoundrel.” During the 19th century, patriotism became increasingly conflated with nationalism, but when used in contrast with nationalism, the term may still express the more constructive, less antagonistic or aggressive ideal. In classical 18th century patriotism, loyalty to the State was chiefly considered in contrast to loyalty to the Church, and it was argued that clerics should not be allowed to teach in public schools as their patrie was heaven, so that they could not inspire love of the homeland in their students. One of the most influential proponents of this classical notion of patriotism was Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Conversely, in 1774, Samuel Johnson published The Patriot, a critique of what he viewed as false patriotism. On the evening of 7 April 1775, he made the famous statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” This line was not, as widely believed, about patriotism in general, but the false use of the term “patriotism” by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (the patriot-minister) and his supporters; Johnson opposed “self-professed Patriots” in general, but valued what he considered “true” patriotism.
Patriotism may be strengthened by adherence to a national religion (a civil religion or even a theocracy). This is the opposite of the separation of church and state demanded by the Enlightenment thinkers who saw patriotism and faith as opposing forces. Others, such as Michael Billig or Jean Bethke Elshtain argue that the difference is difficult to discern and relies largely on the attitude of the labeler.
Several surveys have tried to measure patriotism for various reasons. The Correlates of War project found some correlation between war propensity and patriotism. For example Iran is the most patriot-nation in Asia, for some surveys (for example Forbes’) it is the most patriot nation in the world. According the UN statistics Iranian patriotism even at the moment is equal to French patriotism during revolution or Serbian during Yugoslavia wars. The results from different studies are time dependent. Patriotism in Germany before the Great War (WWI) ranks at or near the top, whereas today it ranks at or near the bottom of surveys. The results of these studies challenge the notion whether or not Patriotism is a virtue or not.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”We need a type of patriotism that recognizes the virtues of those who are opposed to us….. The old ”manifest destiny” idea ought to be modified so that each nation has the manifest destiny to do the best it can – and that without cant, without the assumption of self-righteousness and with a desire to learn to the uttermost from other nations.” author=”Francis John McConnell”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is in political life what faith is in religion.” author=”John Dalberg Acton”/]
What is patriotism?
The standard dictionary definition reads “love of one’s country.” This captures the core meaning of the term in ordinary use; but it might well be thought too thin and in need of fleshing out. In what is still the sole book-length philosophical study of the subject, Stephen Nathanson defines patriotism as involving:
- Special affection for one’s own country
- A sense of personal identification with the country
- Special concern for the well-being of the country
- Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good
There is little to argue about here. There is no great difference between special affection and love, and patriotism. Nathanson himself uses the terms interchangeably. Although love (or special affection) is usually given expression in special concern for its object, that is not necessary the case with patriotism. A person whose love for her country was not expressed in any special concern for it would scarcely be considered a patriot. Therefore the definition needs to include such concern. Once that is included, however, a willingness to make sacrifices for one’s country is implied, and need not be added as a separate component. Identification with the country, too, might be thought implied in the phrase “one’s country.” But the phrase is extremely vague, and allows for a country to be called “one’s own” in an extremely thin, formal sense too. It seems that if one is to be a patriot of a country, the country must be his in some significant sense; and that may be best captured by speaking of one’s identification with it. Such identification is expressed in vicarious feelings: in pride of one’s country’s merits and achievements, and in shame for its lapses or crimes (when these are acknowledged, rather than denied). Accordingly, patriotism can be defined as love of one’s country, identification with it, and special concern for its well-being and that of compatriots.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last refuge of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.” author=”Ambrose Bierce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.” author=”Calvin Coolidge”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” author=”George William Curtis”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism has its roots deep in the instincts and the affections. Love of country is the expansion of dutiful love.” author=”D. D. Field”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Is it an offence, is it a mistake, is it a crime to take a hopeful view of the prospects of your own country? Why should it be? Why should patriotism and pessimism be identical? Hope is the mainspring of patriotism.” author=”David Lloyd George”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.” author=”Samuel Johnson”/]
Patriotism is a virtue so long as the actions it encourages are not themselves immoral. So long as devotion and loyalty to one’s country do not lead to immoral actions, then patriotism can be quite laudable. When concern for their own country blinds people to the legitimate needs and interests of other nations, then patriotism becomes a vice. That a morally acceptable form of patriotism is possible can be seen by comparing patriotism to love or family loyalty. People may (and, one hopes, typically do) have a special interest and concern for their parents, spouses, and children. They really do care more about those “near and dear” than about strangers. Yet, so long as this concern is not an exclusive concern, there is nothing the matter with it. That is, so long as family loyalty does not violate the rights of nonmembers of one’s family, then actions inspired by family loyalty or love are perfectly permissible.
When patriotism is in the service of valuable ends and is limited to morally legitimate means of attaining them, then it is a virtue. When patriotism leads to support of immoral ends or immoral means to achieve otherwise legitimate ends, then it is a vice.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” author=”Samuel Johnson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Most Christians live in confusion in regard to their scales of values and priorities. Many honest Christian people experience the shock of a revelation when they are brought to realize that their membership of the Church constitutes a loyalty prior to their loyalty to the nation to which they belong. Patriotism is one of the powerful underground pseudo-religions of to-day, not merely nationalism. The fundamental notion that the Christians are a ”peculiar people” that never is identical, or even can be, with a people in the biological, national sense of the word, is largely asleep. It can only become awake by a new grasp of the biblical truth that the Church is the ”people of God”, an elect race composed of people out of all nations, transcending all nations and races.” author=”Hendrik Kraemer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If patriotism is, as Dr. Johnson used to remark, the last refuge of the scoundrel, wrapping outdated industry in the mantle of national interest is the last refuge of the economically dispossessed. In economic terms, pleading national interest is the declining cottage industry of those who have been bypassed by the global economy.” author=”Kenichi Ohmae”/]
Patriotism as a Vice
Citizens of all nations are not necessarily patriots in the “virtuous definition”. Whether people ought to be classified as virtuously patriotic depends on the qualities of their particular nations and governments. If nations lack the qualities that make them merit loyalty-and devotion, then patriotism with respect to them is an inappropriate attitude. A morally constrained version of patriotism is both limited in the range of actions that it requires citizens to support and conditional on the nature of the nation to which loyalty is directed. A full analysis of patriotism would have to describe the conditions that nations must meet to be suitable objects of patriotic loyalty. Some may think that a patriotism that is so bounded by limits and conditions cannot count as genuine loyalty. The alternative, however, is a form of patriotism that is so free of moral limits and conditions that it requires automatic assent to even the vilest evils, so long as they are done in the name of the nation. To insist that patriotism must take this extreme form in order to be genuine is to undermine the claim that patriotism is a worthwhile idea for morally conscientious people to adopt.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I venture to suggest that patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” author=”Adlai E. Stevenson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice.” author=”Jesse Ventura”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I know (patriotism) exists, and I know it has done much in the present contest. But a great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.” author=”George Washington”/]
IS PATRIOTISM A VIRTUE?
By Alasdair MacIntyre
One of the central tasks of the moral philosopher is to articulate the convictions of the society in which he or she lives so that these convictions may become available for rational scrutiny. It is quite clear that there are large disagreements about patriotism in our society. And although it would be a mistake to suppose that there are only two clear, simple and mutually opposed sets of beliefs about patriotism, it is at least plausible to suggest that the range of conflicting views can be placed on a spectrum with two poles. At one end is the view, taken for granted by almost everyone in the nineteenth century, that ‘patriotism’ is a virtue. At the other end is the contrasting view, expressed with sometimes shocking clarity in the nineteen sixties, that ‘patriotism’ is a vice.
Patriotism is defined in terms of a kind of loyalty to a particular nation which only those possessing that particular nationality can exhibit. Only Frenchmen can be patriotic about France, while anyone can make the cause of civilization their own. But it would be all too easy in noticing this to fail to make a second equally important distinction. Patriotism is not to be confused with a mindless loyalty to one’s own particular nation which has no regard at all for the characteristics of that particular nation. Patriotism does generally and characteristically involve a peculiar regard not just for one’s own nation, but for the particular characteristics and merits and achievements of one’s own nation. These latter are indeed valued as merits and achievements and their character as merits and achievements provides reasons supportive of the patriot’s attitudes. But the patriot does not value in the same way precisely similar merits and achievements when they are the merits and achievements of some nation other than his or hers. For he or she – at least in the role of patriot – values them not just as merits and achievements, but as the merits and achievements of this particular nation. To say this is to draw attention to the fact that patriotism is one of a class of royalty exhibiting virtues, other members of which are marital fidelity, the love of one’s own family and kin, friendship, and loyalty to such institutions as schools and cricket or baseball clubs. All these attitudes exhibit a peculiar action-generating regard for particular persons, institutions or groups, a regard founded upon a particular historical relationship of association between the person exhibiting the regard and the relevant person, institution or group. It is often, although not always, the case that associated with this regard will be a felt gratitude for the benefits which the individual takes him or herself to have received from the person, institution or group. But it would be one more mistake to suppose patriotism or other such attitudes of loyalty to be at their core or primarily responses of gratitude. For there are many persons, institutions and groups to which each of us have good reason to feel grateful without this kind of loyalty being involved. What patriotism and other such attitudes involve is not just gratitude, but a particular kind of gratitude; and what those who treat patriotism and other such loyalties as virtues are committed to believing is not that what they owe their nation or whomever or whatever it is simply a requital for benefits received, based on some relationship of reciprocity of benefits. It is difficult to reconcile an impersonal moral standpoint and patriotism. For the impersonal moral standpoint, understood as the philosophical protagonists of modern liberalism have understood it, requires neutrality not only between rival and competing interests, but also between rival and competing sets of beliefs about the best way for human beings to live. Each individual is to be left free to pursue in his or her own way that way of life which he or she judges to be best; while morality by contrast consists of rules which, just because they are such that any rational person, independently of his or her interests or point of view on the best way for human beings to live, would assent to them, are equally binding on all persons.
The case for treating patriotism as a virtue is clear. If first of all it is the case that I can only apprehend the rules of morality in the version in which they are incarnated in some specific community; and if secondly it is the case that the justification of morality must be in terms of particular goods enjoyed within the life of particular communities; and if thirdly it is the case that I am characteristically brought into being and maintained as a moral agent only through the particular kinds of moral sustenance afforded by my community, then it is clear that deprived of this community, I am unlikely to flourish as a moral agent. Hence my allegiance to the community and what it requires of me – even to the point of requiring me to die to sustain its life – could not meaningfully be contrasted with or counter-posed to what morality genuine standards of judgment. Loyalty to that community, to the hierarchy of particular kinship, particular local community and particular natural community, is on this view a prerequisite for morality. So patriotism and those loyalties cognate to it are not just virtues but central virtues.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” author=”Pablo Casals”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” author=”James Bryce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is sweet to serve one’s country by deeds, and it is not absurd to serve her by words.” author=”Sallust”/]
Our hearts where they rocked our cradle,
Our love where we spent our toil,
And our faith, and our hope, and our honor,
We pledge to our native soil.
God gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all.
Patriotism is a love of and loyalty to one’s country. A patriot is someone who loves, supports, and is prepared to serve their country. The word patriotism comes from a Greek word meaning fatherland. For most of history, love of fatherland or homeland was an attachment to the physical features of the land. But that notion changed in the eighteenth century, when the ideals of democracy, socialism, and communism strongly emerged into political thought. Patriotism was still a love of one’s country that included connections to the land and people, but then also included its customs and traditions, pride in its history, and devotion to its welfare. Today most people agree that patriotism also involves service to their country, but many disagree on how to best perform such service. Some believe that the national government speaks for a country; therefore, all its citizens should actively support government policies and actions. Others argue that a true patriot speaks out when convinced that their country is following an unwise or unjust action.
by Ron Paul
For some, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For others, it means dissent against a government’s abuse of the people’s rights. I have never met a politician in Washington or any American, for that matter, who chose to be called unpatriotic. Nor have I met anyone who did not believe he wholeheartedly supported our troops, wherever they may be.
What I have heard all too frequently from various individuals are sharp accusations that, because their political opponents disagree with them on the need for foreign military entanglements, they were unpatriotic, un-American evildoers deserving contempt. The original American patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power.
The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state. Resistance need not be violent, but the civil disobedience that might be required involves confrontation with the state and invites possible imprisonment.
Peaceful, nonviolent revolutions against tyranny have been every bit as successful as those involving military confrontation. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., achieved great political successes by practicing nonviolence, and yet they suffered physically at the hands of the state. But whether the resistance against government tyrants is nonviolent or physically violent, the effort to overthrow state oppression qualifies as true patriotism.
True patriotism today has gotten a bad name, at least from the government and the press. Those who now challenge the unconstitutional methods of imposing an income tax on us, or force us to use a monetary system designed to serve the rich at the expense of the poor are routinely condemned. These American patriots are sadly looked down upon by many. They are never praised as champions of liberty as Gandhi and Martin Luther King have been.
Liberals, who withhold their taxes as a protest against war, are vilified as well, especially by conservatives. Unquestioned loyalty to the state is especially demanded in times of war. Lack of support for a war policy is said to be unpatriotic. Arguments against a particular policy that endorses a war, once it is started, are always said to be endangering the troops in the field. This, they blatantly claim, is unpatriotic, and all dissent must stop. Yet, it is dissent from government policies that defines the true patriot and champion of liberty.
It is conveniently ignored that the only authentic way to best support the troops is to keep them out of dangerous undeclared no-win wars that are politically inspired. Sending troops off to war for reasons that are not truly related to national security and, for that matter, may even damage our security, is hardly a way to patriotically support the troops.
Who are the true patriots, those who conform or those who protest against wars without purpose? How can it be said that blind support for a war, no matter how misdirected the policy, is the duty of a patriot?
Randolph Bourne said that, “War is the health of the state.” With war, he argued, the state thrives. Those who believe in the powerful state see war as an opportunity. Those who mistrust the people and the market for solving problems have no trouble promoting a “war psychology” to justify the expansive role of the state. This includes the role the Federal Government plays in our lives, as well as in our economic transactions.
Certainly, the neoconservative belief that we have a moral obligation to spread American values worldwide through force justifies the conditions of war in order to rally support at home for the heavy hand of government. It is through this policy, it should surprise no one, that our liberties are undermined. The economy becomes overextended, and our involvement worldwide becomes prohibited. Out of fear of being labeled unpatriotic, most of the citizens become compliant and accept the argument that some loss of liberty is required to fight the war in order to remain safe.
This is a bad trade-off, in my estimation, especially when done in the name of patriotism. Loyalty to the state and to autocratic leaders is substituted for true patriotism; that is, a willingness to challenge the state and defend the country, the people and the culture. The more difficult the times, the stronger the admonition comes that the leaders be not criticized.
Because the crisis atmosphere of war supports the growth of the state, any problem invites an answer by declaring war, even on social and economic issues. This elicits patriotism in support of various government solutions, while enhancing the power of the state. Faith in government coercion and a lack of understanding of how free societies operate encourages big-government liberals and big-government conservatives to manufacture a war psychology to demand political loyalty for domestic policy just as is required in foreign affairs.
The long-term cost in dollars spent and liberties lost is neglected as immediate needs are emphasized. It is for this reason that we have multiple perpetual wars going on simultaneously. Thus, the war on drugs, the war against gun ownership, the war against poverty, the war against illiteracy, the war against terrorism, as well as our foreign military entanglements are endless.
All this effort promotes the growth of statism at the expense of liberty. A government designed for a free society should do the opposite, prevent the growth of statism and preserve liberty.
Once a war of any sort is declared, the message is sent out not to object or you will be declared unpatriotic. Yet, we must not forget that the true patriot is the one who protests in spite of the consequences. Condemnation or ostracism or even imprisonment may result.
Nonviolent protesters of the Tax Code are frequently imprisoned, whether they are protesting the code’s unconstitutionality or the war that the tax revenues are funding. Resisters to the military draft or even to Selective Service registration are threatened and imprisoned for challenging this threat to liberty.
Statism depends on the idea that the government owns us and citizens must obey. Confiscating the fruits of our labor through the income tax is crucial to the health of the state. The draft, or even the mere existence of the Selective Service, emphasizes that we will march off to war at the state’s pleasure.
A free society rejects all notions of involuntary servitude, whether by draft or the confiscation of the fruits of our labor through the personal income tax. A more sophisticated and less well-known technique for enhancing the state is the manipulation and transfer of wealth through the fiat monetary system operated by the secretive Federal Reserve.
Protesters against this unconstitutional system of paper money are considered unpatriotic criminals and at times are imprisoned for their beliefs. The fact that, according to the Constitution, only gold and silver are legal tender and paper money outlawed matters little. The principle of patriotism is turned on its head. Whether it’s with regard to the defense of welfare spending at home, confiscatory income tax, or an immoral monetary system or support for a war fought under false pretense without a legal declaration, the defenders of liberty and the Constitution are portrayed as unpatriotic, while those who support these programs are seen as the patriots.
If there is a war going on, supporting the state’s effort to win the war is expected at all costs, no dissent. The real problem is that those who love the state too often advocate policies that lead to military action. At home, they are quite willing to produce a crisis atmosphere and claim a war is needed to solve the problem. Under these conditions, the people are more willing to bear the burden of paying for the war and to carelessly sacrifice liberties, which they are told is necessary.
The last 6 years have been quite beneficial to the health of the state, which comes at the expense of personal liberty. Every enhanced unconstitutional power of the state can only be achieved at the expense of individual liberty. Even though in every war in which we have been engaged civil liberties have suffered, some have been restored after the war ended, but never completely. That has resulted in a steady erosion of our liberties over the past 200 years. Our government was originally designed to protect our liberties, but it has now, instead, become the usurper of those liberties.
We currently live in the most difficult of times for guarding against an expanding central government with a steady erosion of our freedoms. We are continually being reminded that 9/11 has changed everything.
Unfortunately, the policy that needed most to be changed, that is, our policy of foreign interventionism, has only been expanded. There is no pretense any longer that a policy of humility in foreign affairs, without being the world’s policemen and engaging in nation building, is worthy of consideration.
We now live in a post-9/11 America where our government is going to make us safe no matter what it takes. We are expected to grin and bear it and adjust to every loss of our liberties in the name of patriotism and security.
Though the majority of Americans initially welcomed the declared effort to make us safe, and we are willing to sacrifice for the cause, more and more Americans are now becoming concerned about civil liberties being needlessly and dangerously sacrificed.
The problem is that the Iraq war continues to drag on, and a real danger of it spreading exists. There is no evidence that a truce will soon be signed in Iraq or in the war on terror or the war on drugs. Victory is not even definable. If Congress is incapable of declaring an official war, it is impossible to know when it will end. We have been fully forewarned that the world conflict in which we are now engaged will last a long, long time.
The war mentality and the pervasive fear of an unidentified enemy allows for a steady erosion of our liberties, and, with this, our respect for self-reliance and confidence is lost. Just think of the self-sacrifice and the humiliation we go through at the airport screening process on a routine basis. Though there is no scientific evidence of any likelihood of liquids and gels being mixed on an airplane to make a bomb, billions of dollars are wasted throwing away toothpaste and hair spray, and searching old women in wheelchairs.
Our enemies say boo, and we jump, we panic, and then we punish ourselves. We are worse than a child being afraid of the dark. But in a way, the fear of indefinable terrorism is based on our inability to admit the truth about why there is a desire by a small number of angry radical Islamists to kill Americans. It is certainly not because they are jealous of our wealth and freedoms.
We fail to realize that the extremists, willing to sacrifice their own lives to kill their enemies, do so out of a sense of weakness and desperation over real and perceived attacks on their way of life, their religion, their country, and their natural resources. Without the conventional diplomatic or military means to retaliate against these attacks, and an unwillingness of their own government to address the issue, they resort to the desperation tactic of suicide terrorism. Their anger toward their own governments, which they believe are coconspirators with the American Government, is equal to or greater than that directed toward us.
These errors in judgment in understanding the motive of the enemy and the constant fear that is generated have brought us to this crisis where our civil liberties and privacy are being steadily eroded in the name of preserving national security.
We may be the economic and the military giant of the world, but the effort to stop this war on our liberties here at home in the name of patriotism is being lost.
The erosion of our personal liberties started long before 9/11, but 9/11 accelerated the process. There are many things that motivate those who pursue this course, both well-intentioned and malevolent, but it would not happen if the people remained vigilant, understood the importance of individual rights, and were unpersuaded that a need for security justifies the sacrifice for liberty, even if it is just now and then.
The true patriot challenges the state when the state embarks on enhancing its power at the expense of the individual. Without a better understanding and a greater determination to rein in the state, the rights of Americans that resulted from the revolutionary break from the British and the writing of the Constitution will disappear.
The record since September 11th is dismal. Respect for liberty has rapidly deteriorated. Many of the new laws passed after 9/11 had, in fact, been proposed long before that attack. The political atmosphere after that attack simply made it more possible to pass such legislation. The fear generated by 9/11 became an opportunity for those seeking to promote the power of the state domestically, just as it served to falsely justify the long-planned invasion of Iraq.
The war mentality was generated by the Iraq war in combination with the constant drumbeat of fear at home. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who is now likely residing in Pakistan, our supposed ally, are ignored, as our troops fight and die in Iraq and are made easier targets for the terrorists in their backyard. While our leaders constantly use the mess we created to further justify the erosion of our constitutional rights here at home, we forget about our own borders and support the inexorable move toward global government, hardly a good plan for America.
The accelerated attacks on liberty started quickly after 9/11. Within weeks, the PATRIOT Act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress. Though the final version was unavailable up to a few hours before the vote, no Member had sufficient time to study it. Political fear of not doing something, even something harmful, drove the Members of Congress to not question the contents, and just voted for it. A little less freedom for a little more perceived safety was considered a fair trade-off, and the majority of Americans applauded.
The PATRIOT Act, though, severely eroded the system of checks and balances by giving the government the power to spy on law-abiding citizens without judicial supervision. The several provisions that undermine the liberties of all Americans include sneak-and-peek searches, a broadened and more vague definition of domestic terrorism, allowing the FBI access to library and bookstore records without search warrants or probable cause, easier FBI initiation of wiretaps and searches, as well as roving wiretaps, easier access to information on American citizens’ use of the Internet, and easier access to e-mail and financial records of all American citizens.
The attack on privacy has not relented over the past 6 years. The Military Commissions Act is a particularly egregious piece of legislation and, if not repealed, will change America for the worse as the powers unconstitutionally granted to the executive branch are used and abused. This act grants excessive authority to use secretive military commissions outside of places where active hostilities are going on. The Military Commissions Act permits torture, arbitrary detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants at the full discretion of the President and without the right of habeas corpus, and warrantless searches by the NSA. It also gives to the President the power to imprison individuals based on secret testimony.
Since 9/11, Presidential signing statements designating portions of legislation that the President does not intend to follow, though not legal under the Constitution, have enormously multiplied. Unconstitutional Executive Orders are numerous and mischievous and need to be curtailed.
Extraordinary rendition to secret prisons around the world have been widely engaged in, though obviously extralegal.
A growing concern in the post-9/11 environment is the Federal Government’s list of potential terrorists based on secret evidence. Mistakes are made, and sometimes it is virtually impossible to get one’s name removed even though the accused is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.
A national ID card is now in the process of being implemented. It is called the REAL ID card, and it is tied to our Social Security numbers and our State driver’s license. If REAL ID is not stopped, it will become a national driver’s license ID for all Americans. We will be required to carry our papers.
Some of the least-noticed and least-discussed changes in the law were the changes made to the Insurrection Act of 1807 and to posse comitatus by the Defense Authorization Act of 2007. These changes pose a threat to the survival of our Republic by giving the President the power to declare martial law for as little reason as to restore public order. The 1807 act severely restricted the President in his use of the military within the United States borders, and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 strengthened these restrictions with strict oversight by Congress. The new law allows the President to circumvent the restrictions of both laws. The Insurrection Act has now become the “Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act.” This is hardly a title that suggests that the authors cared about or understood the nature of a constitutional Republic.
Now, martial law can be declared not just for insurrection, but also for natural disasters, public health reasons, terrorist attacks or incidents, or for the vague reason called “other conditions.” The President can call up the National Guard without congressional approval or the Governors’ approval, and even send these State Guard troops into other States.
The American Republic is in remnant status. The stage is set for our country eventually devolving into a military dictatorship, and few seem to care. These precedent-setting changes in the law are extremely dangerous and will change American jurisprudence forever if not revised. The beneficial results of our revolt against the King’s abuses are about to be eliminated, and few Members of Congress and few Americans are aware of the seriousness of the situation. Complacency and fear drive our legislation without any serious objection by our elected leaders. Sadly, though, those few who do object to this self-evident trend away from personal liberty and empire-building overseas are portrayed as unpatriotic and uncaring.
Though welfare and socialism always fails, opponents of them are said to lack compassion. Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the war are not supporting the troops. The cliché “Support the Troops” is incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the policy, no matter how flawed it may be.
Unsound policy can never help the troops. Keeping the troops out of harm’s way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way of protecting the troops. With this understanding, just who can claim the title of “patriot”?
Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for which we will be held responsible, or the liberties of all Americans become so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done. Time is short, but our course of action should be clear. Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required. Each of us must choose which course of action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.
But let it not be said that we did nothing. Let not those who love the power of the welfare/warfare state label the dissenters of authoritarianism as unpatriotic or uncaring. Patriotism is more closely linked to dissent than it is to conformity and a blind desire for safety and security. Understanding the magnificent rewards of a free society makes us unbashful in its promotion, fully realizing that maximum wealth is created and the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”He loves his country best who strives to make it best.” author=”Robert G. Ingersoll”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.” author=”Seneca”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Do not… regard the critics as questionable patriots. What were Washington and Jefferson and Adams but profound critics of the colonial status quo?” author=”Adlai Stevenson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.” author=”Mark Twain”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He is a poor patriot whose patriotism does not enable him to understand how all men everywhere feel about their altars and their hearthstones, their flag and their fatherland.” author=”Harry Emerson Fosdick”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.” author=”Arthur C. Clarke”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?” author=”Lin Yutang”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident. ” author=”Montesquieu”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world.” author=”Socrates”/]
Borders are scratched across the hearts of men
By strangers with a calm, judicial pen,
And when the borders bleed we watch with dread
The lines of ink across the map turn red.
The Thin Line between Patriotism and Arrogance
By PJ Daniel
Patriotism is a topic that I have pondered over many years and have had numerous discussions and debates with people from all walks of life. Having had a multi-cultural upbringing, and having worked with people from different parts of the world, I have had the opportunity to see the bigger picture and in some ways, maybe the pros and cons of various national and cultural aspects; But most importantly, of the aspect of Patriotism itself.
Patriotism in simple words is ‘the love of and/or devotion to one’s country’. However its definition has changed dramatically over time and its present meaning varies and is dependent on context, geography and philosophy. But let me state at the outset what Patriotism ‘is not’. In my opinion, Patriotism is NOT mindless loyalty to one’s own nation having no regard for the people or characteristics of that nation or others. And the above is what I have mostly seen of Patriotism displayed in many parts of the world including my own country – India.
Greek philosopher Socrates stated “Patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be.” This view I completely support. What I have seen over the years of ‘conventional’ patriotism is more an over-zealous ‘nationalism’ than it is anything else. And this has on many occasions made me ‘not feel’ patriotic. Let me first state the positive and practical ‘importance’ of Patriotism.
I once read a fascinating article that stated the importance of a moderately high blood pressure to a boxer. While that may not be a very helpful analogy, the undertone is that certain fields require you to have a certain aspect in order to perform your designated duties to that field; National Security for example. It is absolutely necessary for every soldier or authority in any wing of the armed forces to have a sense of patriotism. The motive being a higher cause or ideal makes it crucial, in this case, protecting or defending your nation. And this is positive. However, like I said above, the aspect of patriotism is more complicated than that. While the context in which patriotism is exhibited here may be right, there are philosophical problems. Soldiers on both sides of the war may be equally patriotic but therein lays the problem of ‘ethics’. Only one side may have or be the closest to a higher or right ideal. You will immediately see what I mean. But what does it mean to the average civilian? What does it mean to you or me?
A few years ago I heard of an Indian astronaut – Kalpana Chawla, who was part of the Columbia Space Shuttle Mission for NASA. When the news broke out of their intended mission, I was thrilled. To have an Indian be a part of a prestigious team for NASA was both a pioneering and proud moment for India. And I could not have felt more proud to be an Indian then. And then tragedy struck. After 16 days in space and on entry into Earth, minutes away from touchdown, Columbia exploded mid-air in a blazing trail of fire that left debris across hundreds of miles over two states. The United States and India were stunned when the first live pictures broke out on live news. In the aftermath of the incident, many days later, I was disgusted with some sentiments that a relative and a friend had to say. They expressed that they were actually ‘happy’ that Kalpana died the way she did because she ‘deserved’ it. Their reasoning was that having been born as an Indian, in India, to Indian parents, and educated in India, she decided to travel abroad and seek a job with NASA and do a mission for them for her own glory and for the glory of the United States! In other words, according to them, it ‘served her right’! I was flabbergasted not to mention seething with rage toward them. Besides the basic humane feeling toward the loss of life, these ‘patriotic’ Indians were actually blinded by their own patriotic, or in my words, nationalistic feelings toward and against, a fellow Indian! Words failed me for the lack of what I felt toward them at that moment. And to my shame and disgust, many such sentiments were felt throughout India by some minorities. I was baffled by the stark contrast as I watched Kalpana’s memorial service in the US, with an American flag-draped casket and a 21 gun salute, while just two channels away, effigies of Kalpana were being burnt and spat on back home in India. A foreign nation honored her while her own motherland spewed hatred against her. And for what – not for selling our secrets to the enemy, or humiliating national interests for her own, but for dying in the process of realizing a dream that began in a small village somewhere in rural India.
But then I’ve even see this in the field of sport. Avid Indian cricket fans hail and praise their team when they’re doing well but absolutely ridicule, abhor and criticize the same team when they run through a bad patch. And yet if I so much as even ‘consider’ a positive aspect of the opposing team, I am immediately pounced on and charged as being ‘unpatriotic’! I even see this in the field of education in India. A few years ago, a lowly student from south India ranked state first in a decisive exam and got her picture in the national newspaper. But that’s about the fame she was going to get. She still had to spend her poor parents’ entire lifetime earnings as a ‘fee’ to get into a prestigious college. Her field of interest was adjudicated based on which ‘caste’ she belonged to and finally she was not given equal or better rights over someone else who has been there for a while simply because she was a woman. When it seemed like all hope was lost, she applied to another university overseas, who acknowledged her achievement, awarded her a scholarship, sponsored her and eventually offered to make her a permanent resident of their own country – an offer she gladly took; And in all honesty, one that I would too. But the moment she did that, she was scorned as an ‘ungrateful dog’ back home by certain political elements; for deserting her home country and running for the spoils of another. Again a foreign nation acknowledged her while her own didn’t. This is our definition of Patriotism! Now I’m really confused!
By nature, I tend to lean on the practical side than I do on the sentimental. So when my country does something shameful, I prefer to call it that than defend it in the interests of national fervor. When a fellow Indian ridicules another nation or national, I feel obliged to point out our own national ‘blind spots’ and not be quick to judge another. And this I feel is not wrong. Patriotism has its value and I certainly contend that we must have a sense of national pride. But let me be brutally honest here; at the risk of sounding more brutal than honest! If there is nothing to be proud of, there is no wrong in being ashamed of it. In fact, a lack of shame might be a nation’s first step toward human callousness. It is ‘conviction’ that has lead to the higher ideals of ‘equal rights’ and ‘freedom from slavery’. It is ignorance and arrogance that has lead to two World wars and the Holocaust. Patriotism may be a thin line between national pride and national arrogance.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” author=”George Bernard Shaw”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave, blind as a stone, and irrational as a headless hen” author=”Ambrose Bierce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”To strike freedom of the mind with the fist of patriotism is an old an ugly subtlety” author=”Adlai E. Stevenson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Patriotism means unqualified and unwavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank assessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them” author=”Alexander Solzhenitsyn”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If patriotism is ”the last refuge of a scoundrel,” it is not merely because evil deeds may be performed in the name of patriotism, but because patriotic fervor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether” author=”Ralph B. Perry”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”What this country needs – what every country needs occasionally – is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends” author=”Ambrose Bierce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona” author=”Samuel Johnson”/]
What Is Patriotism?
by Emma Goldman (1908)
What is patriotism? Is it love of one’s birthplace, the place of childhood’s recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naiveté, we would watch the passing clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one “an eye should be,” piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or is it the place where we would sit on Mother’s knee, enraptured by tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous and playful childhood?
If that were patriotism, few American men of today would be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deepening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. No longer can we hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears and grief.
What, then, is patriotism? “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,” said Dr. [Samuel] Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman…
Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others. The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition…
An army and navy represent the people’s toys. To make them more attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being spent for the display of toys. That was the purpose of the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel the pride and glory of the United States.
The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one hundred thousand… Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theater parties, and revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.
What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum? But instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one newspaper said, “a lasting memory for the child.”
A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human brotherhood?
We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.
Such is the logic of patriotism.
…Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, “Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you.”
…The proletariat of Europe has realized the great force of that solidarity and has, as a result, inaugurated a war against patriotism and its bloody specter, militarism. Thousands of men fill the prisons of France, Germany, Russia and the Scandinavian countries because they dared to defy the ancient superstition…
America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy…
The beginning has already been made in the schools… Children are trained in military tactics, the glory of military achievements extolled in the curriculum, and the youthful mind perverted to suit the government. Further, the youth of the country is appealed to in glaring posters to join the Army and the Navy. “A fine chance to see the world!” cries the governmental huckster. Thus innocent boys are morally shanghaied into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides conquering through the nation…
When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for the great structure where all shall be united into a universal brotherhood — a truly free society.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”We should behave toward our country as women behave toward the men they love. A loving wife will do anything for her husband except stop criticizing and trying to improve him. We should cast the same affectionate but sharp glance at our country.” author=”J. B. Priestley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”One of the great attractions of patriotism it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.” author=”Aldous Huxley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -how passionately I hate them!” author=”Albert Einstein”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born.” author=”Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.” author=”Malcolm X”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I declare that civil war is inevitable and is near at hand. When it comes the descendants of the heroes of Lexington and Bunker Hill will be found equal in patriotism, courage and heroic endurance with the descendants of the heroes of Cowpens and York” author=”Sam Houston”/]
What Patriotism Means
Every true American has felt it: that shudder of joy so vast it can hardly be contained, that heart-pounding pride at the sight of the American flag. It is a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself, of belonging to a great nation. It floods us as we listen to the National Anthem with tears stinging, throat choking, pride and triumph welling up within. And although describing any such great emotion is difficult, we embody this feeling in one word: patriotism.
Nathan Hale felt this grand emotion when he declared his now famous words, standing firm on the British gallows, awaiting the wreath of death about his neck: I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country! His loyal words ring loud and fierce to this day, for such love transcends the boundaries of physical reach. Patriotism is the only power that allows us to encompass the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties which no human arms could embrace without.
Patriotism is born of our passion and love for our country. It makes us fear for her, defend her, sacrifice for her. It soars and bursts forth from us in a dazzling show of fireworks, blazing trumpets, and marching rhythms. When some outside force looms threatening upon us, we all become patriots; therefore, we unite and endure. No patriot can be defeated. “Every lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison a more illustrious abode,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Thus patriotism keeps us alive. It inspires us on the battlefield to fight to the death. It challenges us, dares us to strive for superiority, drives us on as the Olympic torch flames, and commands us to achieve the highest of achievements. Patriotism inspires us to not only live in America, but to live for America. As John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
And so we have followed his words, dedicated our lives to America because of that omnipresent, vast force called patriotism. One moment on the fields of Lexington and Concord—celebrated on Patriot’s Day—changed the entire world. But each time we shudder, feel our tears stinging and throats choking at the sight of Old Glory soaring high, we know Patriot’s Day is every day. Patriotism compels us to persevere, sustains our nation, and ensures its success into eternity.