There are many definitions of patriotism.
I like this, but it's flawed. Sometimes your country -- i.e., the people -- can do things that require the government to correct its citizens. That's why we have a Bill of Rights. Sometimes "we the people" are wrong, and the individual is right. That's what
In other words, patriotism is a simple concept in the abstract -- "love of country" -- but it can be complicated in its application.
I love my daughter deeply, but that love does not mean unconditional support for everything she does or wants to do. Sometimes the greater act of love is to say "No" or "You're wrong." But I think all reasonable people can agree that any father who says to his daughter, "I wish you were never born" does not love his child.
Which brings me to a
He begins: "This
Matthews' three reasons: The American Revolution prolonged slavery; independence was bad for
Now, I could argue against all these propositions, but that's not the point I want to make. Instead, let us concede them for argument's sake.
It strikes me as incontrovertible that this is an unpatriotic argument.
That is not to say it is an evil, dishonest or treasonous argument. But if the dictionary definition of patriotism is "devoted love, support and defense of one's country," then dispassionately arguing that it would be better if
And that's OK. Oh, I disagree with Matthews, but it has always struck me that the cultural prohibition against ever "questioning" someone's patriotism tends to confuse more than it clarifies. During the George W. Bush years, it was a clichÃ© of the left to insist that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Of course, once
By the way: It's simply not true that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. As my
This points to the problem with the schizophrenic way we talk about patriotism. Too often it is an anathematizing word used to brand someone as a heretic or traitor. That's how Sen.
Of course, some forms of dissent are, indeed, rooted in patriotic love of country. But some dissent is rooted in disdain, contempt or even hatred for this country. And some dissent is simply informed by a kind of cosmopolitan indifference to American exceptionalism. These attitudes are more prevalent on the left than the right, but they are not unknown to the right. One of my intellectual heroes,
I think we simultaneously expect too much and too little of the concept of patriotism. An atheist by definition has no love of Jesus or the divine. That doesn't mean an atheist cannot be a good person. Indeed, one of the best things about atheism is its honesty. We have no word for the person who doesn't have special affection for our country that isn't freighted with negative connotations. It seems the moment is ripe to coin one.