What makes a patriot? People through the ages have carried out both horrible and wonderful acts under the banner of patriotism. How then are we to define it? The concept of patriotism is just as debated and relevant today as it was during the Civil War. If our nation is to survive its current challenges, the definition of a true patriot must be clear.
So, what is true patriotism? Only 57 percent of U.S. citizens over 18 described themselves as either “extremely” or “very” patriotic in a study by AARP. Can our nation really survive on 57 percent? I believe these shoddy ratings are the result of widespread misuse of the term “patriot.”
Many believe patriotism to be blind obedience to one's nation. Samuel Johnson, one of the most quoted European writers in history, said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Are patriots really just a bunch of yes-men who bow to the president's every whim? If so, one wonders how we have managed to remain a democracy all these years.
I have to disagree with Johnson. I prefer to quote Carl Schurz, the German revolutionary and, later, American political scientist who said, “My country … if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Schurz's idea of patriotism is often referred to today as “loyal opposition.” This means seeking to change the social behavior of your country out of feelings of national love and patriotic duty. Loyal opposition is not the blind obedience of the uninformed and ignorant but rather active and sensible reconstruction of a system that one believes to be essentially good but critically flawed.
As a student at a somewhat liberal school in an exceedingly liberal state, I constantly find myself annoyed when my peers talk about “moving to Canada” or some other nonsense. My response? “Go ahead. Please move to Canada. It'll be much easier for the rest of us to fix things without your constant whining.” While some may consider this harsh, I invite anyone who can't see the...
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