To Be a Patriot

You’re not a patriot unless you fly the flag. Or, flying the flag has nothing to do with your true love of the USA.

You’re not a patriot unless you support war. Or, being bloodthirsty and wanting to see American troops in harm’s way is very unpatriotic.

Numerous threads have questioned, tangentially or directly, posters’ patriotism when they espoused certain views. This debate is: is there an objective standard for determining patriotic, and, if there is, what is it?

Here’s my take: I agree that this land is made up of many viewpoints, many political theories and beliefs. And the genesis of those views has always been America’s unique strength. So, in general, I’m hesitant to label any disagreement or contrary views as un-American.

But I also think there’s a limit. For example, Jane Fonda’s conduct during the Vietnam War, in which she openly derided the American combat troops, called them baby-killers, allowed herself to pose and be photographed in a North Vietnamese AA gun turret, and may even have turned POW’s notes, given to her in secret, over to POW camp commanders, goes well beyond any stretching of the defintion of patriotism that’s reasonable. I would argue that even if, in her heart, Ms. Fonda’s actions were motivated by a sincere desire to make America better, the methods she chose ruled out any chance of her being called patriotic.

I would also argue that the line can be drawn much further back than Fonda. I agree that healthy disagreement and discourse are uniquely American, and we should never completely silence those who have merely unpopular views.

But I also have a firm conviction that there is a time for discussion and a time for decision. Once the decision is made, even if you personally disagree with it, there is a value in unity - in tempering disagreement and showing solidarity.

In practice, in the wake of last week’s disasters… I’m not so sure how I believe this theory should translate into reality. Thus… this thread. Your thoughts are welcomed.

  • Rick

I’m in at least partial agreement with the OP. I for one questioned whether a war (at least a tradition bombing campaign and/or invasion) would be efficacious in fighting terror. I still think we may wind up just creating another generation of angry terrorists.

However, once the decision has been made, it is time to come together and present (as much as possible) a united front. Therefore, I fully support the military and our commander-in -chief in the endeavor we have undertaken.

Do I think it would be unpatriotic to dissent? No. I am always leery of the word “unpatriotic” as it has so often been used in the past as a blunt instrument to quell free speech. (See Maher, Bill for an example of this phenomenon currently making news.)After all, freedom of speech is one of the things we’re fighting to protect, right?

Should we come together and present a united front? Yes. Should individuals who do not display such solidarity be branded “unpatriotic”? No.

What’s more American than dissent?

I would say that patriotism is simply love for ones country. If that love causes you to bring a nuclear bomb to the US armed forces and detonate it its still patriotism.

The side that agrees with the decision and says there is value in unity are probably the ones who are being most unpatriotic. Its not exactly a stretch to support a country when you agree with what it does.

Here is a Patriot. :wink:

I’d say being a patriot is to disown a connection to the majority of people on the planet.

This is fine for the “haves”.
This is irrelevant to the “have nots”.

This is hard to contemplate for those who do feel connected to the rest of the people on the planet.

I agree with Ramsmilk: Being a patriot sounds fine for your countrymen, but it restricts your point of view since everything you hear or see is in some way biased. One easily forgets the facts and relies upon myth and want-to thinking.
In Germany, where I live, the word “patriot” thankfully has quite a negative bias, due to its use by Nazi propaganda and stuff.

  • PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. *

– Ambrose Bierce

It’s good to see that some people still read Ambrose Bierce.

A patriot is someone who loves and supports his country.

IMHO, that has little to do with politics. Love and support are expressed in many ways, from flag-waving to quiet reflection.

Unfortunately, every insane idiot with a colon has smeared his own excrement on the tragedy. I believe that trading a white sheet and hood for a flag does not a patriot make; our country is a diverse group of people - including Americans of Middle-Eastern descent.

It’s tragic that the shock and outrage of this horror has provided a forum for bigotry, religious zealotry, and other insanity.

I’m comforted by the thought that my country will soon be back to relative normalcy and hatred will again be condemned by the majority. If you feel otherwise, please let me keep my delusion.
Oh, and I’m a patriot.

I had always believed patriotism to be simply loyalty to one’s country. Thus, in my own peculiar value system, in which loyalty is one of the prime vices, I am not and cannot be a patriot. I am strongly for monst of the policies of the US because I agree with them. If however, the US were to reverse its position on such issues, I would be anti-US. My moral compass is guided by the logic of my actions, beliefs and attitudes, and their impact on fellow human beings. To adopt a stance on an issue based on something as arbitrary and out of my control as the country I was born in is nonsensical. I will align myself with others and show solidarity with them based on ethical precepts that we have both considered and concur on, regardless of nationality, family, race or faith. As it stands now, I feel that the democratic and capitalist IDEALS are best. America has varying degrees of success in achieving these lofty goals but, appears to make enough of an effort that I support the American system moreso than any other . . . for now.

Whatever could be defined as “patriotic” or “unpatriotic”, I believe that patriotism has no intrisic value. The example given above about Germany is an excellent example. Should the patriotic germans during WWII be congratulated?
I even think patriotism is a negative value, since it means renuncing to your moral judgement in favor of the majority’s absolute rule. Being patriotic is right if your country is right, and is wrong if your country is wrong. Period.
Only you can choose personnaly your moral stand, and you’re personnally responsible for it. And actually, it’s obviously more difficult, and hence more laudable to stand against a widespread opinion than to wave the flag with everybody. Giving patriotism a positive value is inducing people to renunce their moral judgement and hence preparing them mentally to eventually support wrong doings.
In the Fonda’s example, she was right, or wrong, or in-between. Her patriotism is irrelevant. Patriotism is irrelevant from the moral point of view, and is irrelevant from a legal point of view. Nobody ever was allowed to use “patriotism” as an excuse in front of a war crimes court.
Finally, if one really loves his country, he should do what he thinks is right in order to defend his country’s honor. In the case of mine (France), I doubt that someone would said that those who defended his honor were the patriots waving flags in Vichy. At the risk of being rude, I believe that patriotism is mainly sheep-like thinking.

Mrs. Bricker is about a week away from giving birth.

There may come a day, some years from now, in which Bricker Jr. wants to play football. Now, I played football in high school, and I think it’s an acceptable pastime. Mrs. Bricker is against it, fearing the injuries which may occur. She and I will discuss this, and reach a conclusion. It’s years away, but I already suspect that she will be so adamantly against it that I will yield and withdraw my support.

If that happens, I certainly don’t plan to tell Bricker Jr., “Your mother was against it, so you can’t play. I wanted you to, but she didn’t.” Even though this is the literal truth, I think it would be a divisive message to send. I think parents should stand together after a decision is reached, even if both are not in agreement.

An old company of mine decided to branch out into a certain area of business. I was ardently against this plan; I felt we lacked core competency and sufficient funding to be really successful. However, I was overruled. Despite this, I did not tell my staff that I was against the plan and thought it would fail. Instead, my team and I worked as hard as we could to make it a success. Once the decision was made, I felt it was my duty to work for its success.

Can either of these examples be used as a model for patriotism?

  • Rick

I used to be married to someone who never forgave his mother because, no matter how much she disagreed, she always sided with her husband for unity’s sake. Make of that what you will as a Dad, Rick.

People should strive to offer their criticism in a constructive fashion. Beyond that, censoring yourself for the purpose of illusory “unity” is, IMO, unncessary and unhealthy. If the US embarks upon an unjust or counterproductive policy then it’s the duty as well as right of those who disagree to voice their opinions. Jane Fonda’s initially controversial views of Vietnam became pretty widespread as more and more people saw the pointlessness, the death and the devastation. She sounds like a “patriot” to me although I don’t myself set great store by the word.

With all due respect to your former spouse, Mandelstam, I wonder if the issue there was not so much the preservation of unity, but the fact that the mother always backed down in deference to the father. That doesn’t strike me as a partnership.

While it’s true that public distaste for Vietnam grew, I don’t believe that Jane Fonda’s views ever became widespread, and I vehemently reject the suggestion that her actions can be called patriotic.

  • Rick

One is a patriot only to the extent that one supports the interests of one’s country over the interests of other countries. As such, I am not a patriot.

The OP seems to assume that patriotism is a good thing. I find this interesting, as patriotism seems harmful to me more often than not.

Perhaps patriotism could be defined as the inability to even conceive of the idea that countries other than one’s own can be anything other than undemocratic police states where freedom of speech is quickly stamped out.

Or maybe I’ve misunderstood the word unique?

Still, I don’t see why you should be presenting a unified force against your son. This would send a message that divides you and your wife equally against your son. The only divisive message otherwise shows that you are real people who have differing opinions and gives him a healthy view of reality.

Do you have a reason why it can’t be called patriotic? I think that the people who agree with the decisions being made and call for unity are unpatriotic.