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Has patriotism misplaced its approach?

by Solomon D. Stevens

Patriotism is love of nation, and it may be a really optimistic drive. All nations profit when their individuals really feel a way of belonging and imagine of their nation’s goodness. However as our nation turns into extra polarized and patriotism is utilized by some as a litmus take a look at to evaluate and rapidly condemn others, it is smart to step again and ask ourselves: Has patriotism at the moment misplaced its approach?

Let’s begin with the fundamentals. We be taught from Socrates within the “Republic” (and it’s confirmed by our expertise) that no nation is simply, altogether good. It’s only a incontrovertible fact that human beings can’t create perfection. Maybe we will think about what a simply nation could be, however we can’t make it occur. Our purpose is flawed. We’re all influenced by ardour and prejudice. We will do our greatest, and typically we will do very nicely, however we’re restricted in what we will accomplish.

Which means that our love of nation ought to at all times be tempered by our information that what we love is flawed. And which means that we must always by no means love our nation unconditionally. That’s the reason it is not sensible to say, “My Nation, Proper or Incorrect,” or “Find it irresistible or Go away it!” In reality, I imagine that our love is strengthened after we acknowledge our nation’s flaws and after we stay open to the necessity that each nation has for change and enchancment.

After we shut our eyes to the truth that our nation is flawed, patriotism can flip nasty. It might probably develop into defensive and offended. It might probably result in the will to strike out at, to hurt, those that dare to query our imaginative and prescient of the nation. This could flip what must be a wholesome patriotism right into a poisonous drive.

Abraham Lincoln taught us within the Gettysburg Handle that our nation was “conceived in liberty and devoted to the proposition that each one males are created equal.” Liberty and equality. America was based on these two lofty ideas, which all People may be happy with. However on the similar time, liberty and equality weren’t prolonged to all. Our Founders proclaimed lovely objectives, however they didn’t, couldn’t, put these ideas totally into apply. Our historical past is one in every of fixed wrestle — typically ahead and typically backward — of a debate between precept and apply.

We’ve got no purpose to stroll round feeling ashamed of our flawed historical past. There isn’t a purpose for us to hate ourselves for being human. However on the similar time, we dishonor the good ideas upon which our nation was based by ignoring or denying these flaws, which have harmed many and proceed to take action.

In different phrases, a wholesome patriotism contains acknowledging the restrictions of the nation we love. In reality, our love of nation may be even stronger after we mix it with a continuing need to problem the nation to dwell as much as its ideas.

Consider what we worth in good buddies. Isn’t it true that our greatest buddies are those who inform us when now we have achieved one thing improper? None of us desires our buddies to inform us how fantastic we’re, even when it isn’t true. And after we are being self-destructive, don’t we wish our buddies to name us out to inform us to alter? We wish honesty from our buddies. Patriotism at its finest is similar. It thrives when it’s challenged as a result of the challenges supply alternatives for enchancment.

True patriots must welcome those that protest explicit political leaders (both Joe Biden or Donald Trump), a specific social gathering (both Democrats or Republicans), or a specific coverage (border wall or no border wall). We must always welcome those that “take a knee” when our nationwide anthem is enjoying. They aren’t saying they hate America; they’re reminding us of who we’re. Wholesome patriotism contains disagreement and protest.

In two years, we might be celebrating the 250th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, which first proclaimed the ideas of liberty and equality as the muse of our nation. Will we be nearer to or additional away from our dream of realizing these ideas then? We want patriots at the moment who will problem us to dwell as much as these ideas and name us out after we stray from them.

My father taught me to do all issues carefully. He was a sensible man, and I’m grateful for this lesson. Moderation is sweet with regards to meals, drink and even patriotism. The whole lot may be overdone.

Solomon D. Stevens is the writer of “Faith, Politics, and the Regulation” (co-authored with Peter Schotten) and “Challenges to Peace within the Center East.”