Tags: nfl | patriotism | nationalism | protest

Progress Depends on More Patriotism, Not Less

Progress Depends on More Patriotism, Not Less
(Valiantsin Korznikau/Dreamstime)

Monday, 16 October 2017 11:43 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Many people, even many conservatives, have recently suggested that the word “nationalist” is a pejorative term. However, the word "nationalism" has a clear and positive meaning: a nationalist is one who believes that nations are, in general, a good thing. The opposite would be an anti-nationalist or globalist, one who looks forward with fondness to the day in which all nations can be abolished, and we can all become citizens of a single, global republic. Understood in these terms, we conservatives should be frank and unapologetic nationalists.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “patriot” as one who loves, supports, and defends his country. Patriotism is simply the abstract noun form of patriot. Patriotism really isn’t an “ism” like socialism or conservatism. True nationalism is an “ism”: a nationalist will be one who believes that this quality or virtue of patriotism is a good thing, something to be encouraged.

It is excusable, if a patriot is somewhat biased in his assessment of his country, just as we do not expect a proud mother to be entirely impartial in her assessment of her children’s talents. I sincerely think America is the best nation in the world, much as I also think that my children are the brightest, and that my mother is literally a saint.

However, a patriot is never blind to his country’s faults or misdeeds. As Senator Carl Schurz so famously put in a speech in 1872, which has often been quoted out of context: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right.” These are noble sentiments. True patriots, precisely because they identify so strongly with their country, feel shame when that nation falls short of its highest ideals. Patriotism is a necessary support to civic responsibility. It is the anti-patriot, one who has distanced himself from his country, who can afford the irresponsibility of cynicism in the face of national immorality. A true patriot jealously guards the righteousness of his native land, just as he prizes, above all things, the virtuous state of his own soul.

Like all virtues, as Aristotle explained, true patriotism is a golden mean between two vices: excessive and deficient love. The anti-patriot thus comes in two opposing forms: the jingoist and the neutralist. Sir Roger Scruton has coined a useful term for the vice of insufficient patriotism: oikophobia, antipathy for one’s own home (oikos, in Greek). He defines it as “the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us, and the felt need to denigrate customs, culture, and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.'”

The love of one’s own country is a paradigmatic case of what philosopher Bernard Williams has called an “agent-centered concern.” Just as it is right for me to have a special regard for my wife and my children, my parents, my friends, and myself, simply because they are mine, and not because they are, from some neutral point of view, especially worthy of love, so it is right for me to love my country simply because it is my country.

Let me turn, finally, to the recent controversies about the NFL protests and the National Anthem. A friend of mine recently wrote me, saying that we Americans love a country, and not a piece of fabric or a song. He couldn’t understand why so many of us are so incensed about the NFL players’ protests during the national anthem.

My friend has a naïve psychology of love. Love is nurtured by symbols. A successful marriage, for example, is possible only when supported by thousands of little courtesies and gestures, repeated daily. When my children were young, the bond of love grew out of little rituals, like tucking them into bed or hugging them when they cried.

In the same way, the bonds of patriotism that unite a country of 300 million require a fabric of shared civic rituals, in which love and respect are enacted in iconic ways, like standing at attention with one’s hand on one’s heart with thousands of fellow Americans during the singing of the National Anthem at a sports event.

When people in positions of great prestige and privilege (like NFL players) defy these ritual expressions, not as a result of long-standing creedal prohibitions against all such expressions, but as a symbolic gesture of disloyalty and protest, we should not be surprised if these actions excite vehement opposition. We might almost define the postmodern liberal as one who demands the absolute right to be offensive, and yet denies to everyone else the right to be offended.

If the NFL players succeed in weakening the bonds of American patriotism, would that be good for American blacks? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that black progress depends on more patriotism, not less.

Rob Koons is a professor of philosophy specializing in logic, metaphysics, philosophical theology, and political thought. He is the author and editor of six books, including "The Atlas of Reality: A Comprehensive Guide to Metaphysics" (with Tim Pickavance, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017). He has been active in conservative circles, both nationally and in Texas, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Association of Scholars, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Philadelphia Society, and the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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If the NFL players succeed in weakening the bonds of American patriotism, would that be good for American blacks? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that black progress depends on more patriotism, not less.
nfl, patriotism, nationalism, protest
Monday, 16 October 2017 11:43 AM
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