No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. -Barbara Ehrenreich A few months ago in a Facebook group called Atheism, Logic and Truth I came across a plea for help from the dark depth of the Midwest. Apparently, this lonely and persecuted teenage atheist was in dire need of liberation from the roving bands of Christians that inhabit her region and her nation. She wished to be whisked away to Europe where "free thinkers" reside, where anyone can say and do what they wish without the hell of religion to interfere in her intellectual pursuits. Coming to her rescue were the very same well-read, well-groomed supermen from the Continent. In responses that could defeat even the most ardent intellectual conservative, the superhero Europeans railed against the injustice of "ultra-nationalism" and of that damned Christian "morality". Calls for rescues of the mind were made. Keyboard-led assaults on the evil American state, the rabid zealotry of "Jesus freaks" and the "backwards" population were deemed successful. Self-congratulations abound on another mind saved. The world was safe from those damned patriotic Americans.
Then I arrived with heretical statement: "You're wrong about America."
Blasphemy! Ignorance! Close-mindedness! The calls of the intelligent and the sane assailed my wrong-headedness. How dare I defend free speech when there are still churches standing! How dare I call it liberty when a poor teenage girl must endure repeated encounters with people who believe in God! How dare I attack France for its socialism and racism, or Britain for its ban on self defense, or Germany for its economy! How dare I hold my country in my heart and mind! Patriotism is for the small. Patriotism is for the weak. And that is why Europeans will defend their way of life from any criticism!
Patriotism has a bad rap in America. To the outsider, it seems as though the worst political criminals hide underneath Old Glory in attempt to garner support from the stupid proles that inhabit the less sophisticated areas in this nation. This is true, they do. Alas, to the outsider, like the open-minded Europeans, that's all they want to see. They don't see the love in the eyes of grateful citizens when their uniformed loved ones return. They don't see the respect given to the flag by both young and old. They don't see the dedication to improvement of this nation by all thinkers of all colors and creeds. One does not need to be on the right to be a patriot. Some of the most American of musicians are of the left. Some of the most revered founding fathers like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, if living today, would garner scorn from the lesser minds of the conservative movement for their ideas.
In this series I'll explore the ups and downs of patriotic feelings in the United States. From the words and actions of our Founders to the calls for empire with Manifest Destiny to the fascistic years of Wilson and Roosevelt to the present where even presidential candidates reject the flag based on misguided views of patriotism. I intend to prove that patriotism is not of one political stripe or another, but a special spiritual current in American culture. That its not hate that drives one to raise the flag, chant "USA! USA!" or feel revulsion at those who disdain our symbols, our heroes and our culture, but of a deep and reasoned love for the unique nation we live in, work in and defend with our words and our actions.