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Peter Beinart, one of the more thoughtful men of the left, has a sterling piece in Time Magazine that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten a little more play among blogs.

It’s a piece about patriotism – how liberals and conservatives view the word and the concept and how patriotism is playing out in the presidential race. Beinart suffuses his piece with an obvious love of country which makes the words ring all the more real and true.

It’s always hard to be analytical about an emotional subject – perhaps even more so when trying to look dispassionately at patriotism. And because patriotism is, in many ways, wrapped up in our own personal identity, if we have difficulty recognizing how someone might define the concept, we are more than likely to reject that individual’s claim to being a patriot. Instead, we see hypocrisy or dark forebodings of authoritarianism or super-nationalism.

Beinart successfully traverses this emotional minefield and emerges with a reasoned discourse on the differences between how liberals and conservatives define patriotism. He then ties it neatly into presidential race by demonstrating how Obama’s and McCain’s patriotism may be different but still represents two sides of the same coin – love and devotion to the United States.

I found the entire exercise intellectually and emotionally satisfying – especially since I took a stab at the same subject matter last October and came up with what I thought at the time was one of the better things I had written on this site. Re-reading it, I see how close Beinart’s thinking is to my own views on patriotism (except for a more expansive view regarding American exceptionalism on my part). But Beinart goes several steps further in his analysis to include the dangers inherent in both definitions of patriotism. At bottom, Beinart has successfully shown how both the right and left understanding of patriotism is valid and a necessary complement to the other.

I hold out little hope that many readers (at least those who leave comments) on this site or most sites on the internet would grant Mr. Beinart the legitimacy of his thesis. The patriotism issue is just too emotionally charged and too closely identified with the war for most of us to let go of our petty vindictiveness and grant the opposition the one thing both sides crave the most; recognition that they are acting with the best interests of the United States uppermost in their hearts and minds.

I’m not saying everyone should abandon political combat and move into some loathsome kind of Obama-led paradise where everybody agrees about everything and our great national debates on the war, the energy crisis, the budget, or social issues would suddenly be stilled as we all recognize the error of our ways and come together to hold hands around the great American campfire. That sickening kind of political heaven might be attractive to the ignorant but idealistic young and a segment of the left that sees opposition to its policies the same way the Catholic Church viewed Martin Luther.

But it is not for me. I will continue to battle the left with anger at times but also humor, sarcasm, and satire – hopefully vouchsafing the genuineness of their beliefs and yes, their patriotism in opposing me.

For Beinart, patriotism on the right can be too simple:

That’s why conservatives tend to believe that loving America today requires loving its past. Conservatives often fret about “politically correct” education, which forces America’s students to dwell on its past sins. They’re forever writing books like America: The Last Best Hope (by William J. Bennett) and America: A Patriotic Primer (by Lynne Cheney), which teach children that historically the U.S. was a pretty nifty place. These books are based on the belief that our national forefathers are a bit like our actual mothers and fathers: if we dishonor them, we dishonor ourselves. That’s why conservatives got so upset when Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country” (a comment she says was misinterpreted). In the eyes of conservatives, those comments suggested a lack of gratitude toward the nation that—as they saw it—has given her and the rest of us so much.

Conservatives know America isn’t perfect, of course. But they grade on a curve. Partly that’s because they generally take a dimmer view of human nature than do their counterparts on the left. When evaluating America, they’re more likely to remember that for most of human history, tyranny has been the norm. By that standard, America looks pretty good. Conservatives worry that if Americans don’t appreciate—and celebrate—their nation’s past accomplishments, they’ll assume the country can be easily and dramatically improved. And they’ll end up making things worse. But if conservatives believe that America is, comparatively, a great country, they also believe that comparing America with other countries is beside the point. It’s like your family: it doesn’t matter whether it’s objectively better than someone else’s. You love it because it is yours.

I would take issue with Mr. Beinart only in his belief that “Conservatives often fret about “politically correct” education, which forces America’s students to dwell on its past sins.” That’s only half of it. What conservatives object to is dwelling on America’s past sins at the exclusion and in lieu of telling our national story. I confess to being a little out of the loop regarding the content of “social studies” textbooks but a few short years ago, there was too much emphasis on the struggles of oppressed minorities to rise above the bigotry, sexism, and hatred in American society to reach for the promise that America offered and not enough on the remarkable, even miraculous nature of our origin.

Washington and Jefferson especially received short shrift in the textbooks I examined. How can anyone possibly know America without examining Washington as closely as we might examine Martin Luther King? Or celebrate Jefferson as much as Elizabeth Cady Stanton? The conservative critique of education today decries not just the “politically correct” interpretation of American history but the underlying message being taught; that what those dead white European males did in first fighting for independence and then cementing our freedoms and rights in the Constitution isn’t as vital or important to history as the struggle for civil rights or women’s rights. To say that this is a back-asswards way to teach history is an understatement.

But Beinart nails it when he talks about conservative’s love of the past and how we see patriotism as something of our patrimony; a concept inculcated by parents and, increasingly less so, the public schools. And he is spot on when he ascribes part of this to our rather dim view of human nature.

The difference between liberal and conservative on this point is profound and has been at the bottom of every political argument in our history. It goes back to the debate over the Constitution – between those who possessed what historian Page Smith referred to as a “classical Christian conscience” and those who believed in the values and precepts of the enlightenment.

Smith believed that the Constitution is infused with elements of both but that the classical Christain conscience dominates. It is the belief that man is inherently evil and will do mischief to his fellow man unless restrained by law and governance. (Smith ascribed a belief in original sin and man’s corruptibility as prerequisites for the classical Christian conscience.) Most of the Federalists ended up in this camp if only because they saw a need to restrain the passions of the common man and keep a strong hand on the tiller of state.

The Jeffersonians had a much more expansive and benign view of human nature. They believed in the perfectibility of man and, like true children of the enlightenment, saw man as basically good but error prone. By applying rational and reasoned concepts to government, Jeffersonians believed man was perfectly capable of governing himself as long as sensible laws were enacted to govern his passions.

One can immediately see the basics of the liberal-conservative schism in this debate over the shape of our constitution. And if you were to extrapolate a bit, you can even see how two definitions of patriotism could emerge from the competing philosophies. In Beinart’s piece, he ties the conservative view of respect for the past – defining Reagan as a magician who could summon feelings of past American greatness – with McCain’s ambitions:

McCain is a little rougher around the edges. Unlike Reagan, who during the Second World War only played soldiers on the big screen, McCain has actually seen combat. And as it did Bob Dole, the experience has made him a little more ironic and a little less sappy. (Dole tried to play the Reagan role in 1996, asking Americans in his convention acceptance speech to “let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth,” but he couldn’t pull it off.) But if McCain isn’t Reagan, he still exemplifies many of conservative patriotism’s key themes. He followed in his forefathers’ footsteps; he put aside his hell-raising youth and learned to obey. He served his country in Vietnam, an unpopular war whose veterans we honor not because their service necessarily made the world a better place but simply because they are ours.

On one key issue, though—immigration—McCain’s view of patriotism differs from that of many on the right. Conservatives tend to believe that while Americans are bound together by the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, they are also bound together by a set of inherited traditions that immigrants must be encouraged—even required—to adopt. And they fret that if newcomers don’t assimilate into that common culture, they won’t be truly patriotic. McCain rarely discusses the dangers of mass immigration, but for many conservatives, the fact that some immigrants eat vindaloo or bok choy rather than turkey on Thanksgiving isn’t charming; it’s worrisome. They see multiculturalism as the celebration of various ethnic cultures at our national culture’s expense. And when that celebration is linked to the claim that America’s national traditions are racist—as it sometimes is on college campuses—conservatives begin to suspect that multiculturalism is leading to outright disloyalty. That’s why conservative talk radio and Fox News went berserk a couple of years back when some immigrant activists paraded through America’s cities waving Mexican flags. It confirmed their deepest fear: that if you let people retain their native tongue and let them spurn American culture for the culture of their native land, they will remain politically loyal to their native land as well.

A slight correction to Beinart’s description of the Mexican flag dustup. Of course it wasn’t because Mexican’s were only carrying Mexican flags. It was that they had elevated their own flag above the American flag – something I challenge Mr. Beinart to find in a St. Paddy’s day parade. Beyond that, the signage accompanying the flags were not mentioned by Mr. Beinart – signs clearly stating the belief that California and the southwestern United States was Mexican territory and that someday it would revert back. Reconquista may be a joke to liberals and the open borders crowd but the non-assimilation of tens of millions of Mexicans – people who are actively resisting the pull of the melting pot – is not funny.

But taking Beinart’s thesis on McCain’s appeal to patriotism, I believe he has accurately identified why there is an attraction to the Arizona senator by many conservatives. No, McCain is not a down the line man of the right. But his life story – his values, his upbringing, and his otherwordly courage in a life and death situation that he endured for 5 years resonate powerfully with many whose faith in America finds voice in men like McCain. He is an authentic American hero. And regardless of how one might feel about his immigration policies or other problematic political positions he has taken, there is that link with the past – that McCain is just the latest in a long line of heroes who sacrificed so much for this country.

So why can’t the left see it “our” way and not be so harsh and judgemental when it comes to the sins of our past? This is the way I described the difference between liberals and conservatives regarding patriotism last October:

I think it is apparent that some on the right love America in a different way than some on the left. Think of the right’s love of country as that of a young man for a hot young woman. The passion of such love brooks no criticism and in their eyes, the woman can do nothing wrong. They place the woman on a pedestal and fail to see any flaws in her beauty, only perfection.

On the other hand, love of country by many liberals is more intellectualized – perhaps the kind of love we might feel for a wife of many years. The white hot passion may be gone and her flaws might drive you up a wall at times. And it is difficult not to dwell on her imperfections But there is still a deep, abiding affection that allows you to love her despite the many blemishes and defects they see.

It isn’t that most on the left love America any less than those on the right. They simply see a different entity – a tainted but beloved object that has gotten better.

And here’s Beinart on how the left defines patriotism:
If conservatives tend to see patriotism as an inheritance from a glorious past, liberals often see it as the promise of a future that redeems the past. Consider Obama’s original answer about the flag pin: “I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said last fall. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.” Will make this country great? It wasn’t great in the past? It’s not great as it is?

The liberal answer is, Not great enough. For liberals, America is less a common culture than a set of ideals about democracy, equality and the rule of law. American history is a chronicle of the distance between those ideals and reality. And American patriotism is the struggle to narrow the gap. Thus, patriotism isn’t about honoring and replicating the past; it’s about surpassing it.

One of the major reasons I love history is that America is, at bottom, the most schizophrenic nation imaginable. As long ago as 1765 in the midst of the Stamp Act crisis, wise old Samuel Johnson, the English man of letters who compiled the first English language dictionary, wrote to a friend “Why is it we hear the loudest yelps for freedom from the drivers of Negro slaves?”

Johnson nailed the historical dichotomy that continues to this day. We are nation in love with peace who have fought uncounted wars and battles just since the end of World War II. We are a nation with a Statue of Liberty who welcomes immigrants with the stirring words “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, ...” who then turns around and puts up signs “No Irish need apply” or “English only spoken here.”

What many see as hypocrisy – including much of the left – I see as a profound disconnect from reality. It’s only hypocrisy if you don’t really believe what you’re saying. The amazing thing is we Americans believe with all our hearts in peace and in welcoming immigrants (perhaps most amazing of all, we believe that “all men are created equal” in spite of mountains of evidence that we have never practiced it) despite the actions of our government which can be quite bellicose at times as well as America possessing a long tradition of nativism.

So I can understand the left’s concept of feeling a patriotic duty to make America live up to her best ideals. I can appreciate where that notion comes from and applaud the effort – except for when the left demonstrates a lousy sense of timing and a gross mischaracterization of conservative beliefs:

From my piece:

Having said this, I should point out that the insufferable way in which the left seeks to claim some kind of moral superiority for their view of patriotism by belittling and demonizing the way the right expresses their love of country is unconscionable. There are those on the right who accuse the left of lacking in patriotism – something I have abhorred in the past and will continue to do so. Many conservatives defend dissent even in time of war as a patriotic exercise especially those who have their own beef with the way the war is being run. But I have yet to see anyone on the left take a fellow liberal to task for questioning the methods by which conservative choose to express their love of country.

Indeed, the very idea of a heartfelt expression or outward manifestation of patriotism smacks of “nationalism” to these liberals. And that perhaps, is the real divide between conservatives and liberals when it comes to a definitional framework regarding the use of the word “patriotism.”

Beinart thinks “nationalism” is a grievous sin as well:
By defining Americanism too narrowly and backwardly, conservative patriotism risks becoming clubby. And by celebrating America too unabashedly—without sufficient regard for America’s sins—it risks degenerating from patriotism into nationalism, a self-righteous, chest-thumping ideology that celebrates America at the expense of the rest of the world.

Does nationalism celebrate America “at the expense” of other nations? Or are those feelings of unease by the left the manifestation of something more basic?

My piece:

It should go without saying that liberals despise the concept of nationalism. In this, they are not entirely off base. Most of the evils of the 20th century can be traced to nationalistic impulses in Germany, Japan, the old Soviet Union (Despite their “all men are brothers” rhetoric, the Soviets never had any intention of allowing independent communist states. Their expressed desire was that the revolution be controlled by Moscow.), and the early 20th century saw nationalist movements destabilizing the Austria-Hungarian empire as well as super-nationalistic sentiment in Europe leading the continent to war.

But whether deliberately or not, the left confuses that virulent kind of nationalism with the simple expressions of patriotism most Americans see as harmless and uplifting. Yes there are those on the right who have a “my country right or wrong” attitude where a mindless form of nationalism has taken over and a creeping authoritarianism is expressed by a slavish devotion to a man like Bush. There are also aspects of militarism at large in these quarters where the military can do no wrong and any criticism of the armed forces is tantamount to treason.

I am not denying any of this. I am simply saying that this is a small minority of Americans (whose numbers are blown all of out proportion thanks to the internet). For the left to paint all conservatives and all Americans who express their love of country in a more demonstrable fashion than liberals as xenophobes and simple minded, brainwashed automatons is outrageously arrogant. It stinks of class warfare as much as it animates any criticism for the right’s overly nationalistic impulses. According to many on the left, that kind of patriotic display is reserved for the rubes in flyover country and can safely be ridiculed as the mouthings of ignorant, bible reading, goober chewing yahoos who are too stupid to “vote their own interest” we are told after every election won by a conservative.

What Beinart and other liberals describe as “nationalism” is, I am convinced, nothing more than feelings of discomfort with the more emotional, outward displays of patriotism you often find in Middle America. As Beinart and I agree that the left intellectualizes their patriotism, it stands to reason that grown men weeping at the passing of the flag or even the wearing of a flag pin might cause those on the left to be reminded of all the sins America has committed and that such outward displays are stupid, foolish, and for some liberals, cynically hypocritical.

In some ways, this is an elitist, coastal view of America that many on the left are guilty of and the reason they have continuously lost national elections with two exceptions since 1968.

There is, in fact, nothing wrong with believing America is a different place, a special place compared to other nations. Does that mean loving America “at the expense” of other nations? Damn straight. And the intellectual basis for that feeling can be found in American exceptionalism.

Again, my words:

The idea of American Exceptionalism has taken a beating in recent years because of this overt fear on the part of the left that believing America to be special smacks of the kind of nationalism that had Europe marching off to war in 1914 or Germans goose stepping under the Brandenburg Gate in 1939. Nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t have to read Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky to rid yourself of the notion “my country right or wrong.” And if that is the only education you allow yourself about America and her past, I pity you. Nor do you need any special knowledge vouchsafed those lucky lefties who are able to see through Bushitler’s lies in order to oppose the President on many issues. Unless you are a blind, mindless partisan, such wisdom comes from picking up the daily newspaper and reading it every once and a while.

In short, the privileged moral position the left seeks to occupy on the question of patriotism is an arrogant lie – a belief that those who are more nationalistic in their expressing love of country are not only wrong but dangerous. I hate to disabuse my lefty friends of this notion that patriotism can only be defined as the last refuge of scoundrels but the kind of nationalism expressed by most on the right is in fact healthy and sincere form of patriotism. There is not a whiff of authoritarianism or militarism except in the fevered minds and paranoid imaginings of those who either don’t understand the right’s patriotism or refuse to recognize it as genuine.

Tough words but I believe I speak for many conservatives in uttering them. Beinart may be able to define the differences in patriotic sentiment between liberals and conservatives but many of his friends on the left see only unsophisticated “chest thumping” as manifestations of conservative patriotism while ignoring the feelings of good, decent, people who only understand that they are grateful for having been born in a country they consider the greatest, the most compassionate, the most blessed place on earth.

Yes, there is a religious aspect to the idea of American exceptionalism – that God carved out this land between the oceans and placed upon it the salt of the earth. But as an atheist, I see a much more secular explanation; that fate and the brilliance of a pitifully small number of men combined to present us with a form of government that has allowed the individual to flourish as never before in human history. If this makes us a better place than anywhere else, we should make no apologies and instead, revel in the exceptional nature of our existence.

Beinart can be forgiven his small errors because he so beautifully brings out and celebrates these differences in patriotic sentiment while showing why both the liberal and conservative understanding of patriotism is vital to a healthy country. His piece won’t stop the arguing. But it may initiate dialog that could lead to a glimmer of light so that both sides understand each other a little better.


Comment moderation is off since I will be gone overnight. Please be gentle and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. If you do, be careful. And if you’re not careful, name it after me.

By: Rick Moran at 9:01 am
33 Responses to “THE PATRIOT GAME”
  1. 1
    grognard Said:
    10:11 am 

    Lenin used appeals for social justice to justify his dictatorship, Hitler used appeals to patriotism to seize power in Germany. I have come to the conclusion that Liberals and Conservatives are two sides of the same emotional coin, the two sides get worked up over different things, but the bottom line is that they are both getting worked up. There is nothing wrong with having an intense passion about something but neither seems to believe that they could possibly be manipulated by someone for their own ends. When ever some one is trying to appeal to my emotions over some issue that raises a red flag for me. I get choked up every time I hear Lincolns Gettysburg Address, but don‘t like anyone trying to use it for a political purpose. As a centrist I want to see a pro and con argument that shows some reasoning, not some emotional diatribe about how our side is right and the other side is in league with the Devil. Centrists however are a small minority, no more than 10% of the electorate, and utterly despised by both sides for not lining up for their daily dose of Kool-Aid.

  2. 2
    ajacksonian Said:
    12:04 pm 

    How easily The Enlightenment has been forgotten by those who tout their support of it. It was in the midst of that which saw The Enlightenment view of what we would later call ‘patriotism’. The foremost of those works examining nation, state, country and duty were in de Vattel’s Law of Nations, a work that helped The Enlightenment to finally put together the concepts within it and have a basis for common discussion and discourse. Taken from Book I:

    Ҥ 119. Love for their country. (53)
    The grand secret of giving to the virtues of individuals a turn so advantageous to the state, is to inspire the citizens with an ardent love for their country. It will then naturally follow, that each will endeavour to serve the state, and to apply all his powers and abilities to the advantage and glory of the nation. This love of their country is natural to all men. The good and wise Author of nature has taken care to bind them, by a kind of instinct, to the places where they received their first breath, and they love their own nation, as a thing with which they are intimately connected. But it often happens that some causes unhappily weaken or destroy this natural impression. The injustice or the severity of the government loo [sic] easily effaces it from the hearts of the subjects; can self-love attach an individual to the affairs of a country where every thing is done with a view to a single person? — far from it: — we see, on the contrary, that free nations are passionately interested in the glory and the happiness of their country. Let us call to mind the citizens of Rome in the happy days of the republic, and consider, in modern times, the English and the Swiss.

    § 120. In individuals.
    The love and affection a man feels for the state of which he is a member, is a necessary consequence of the wise and rational love he owes to himself, since his own happiness is connected with that of his country. This sensation ought also to flow from the engagements he has entered into with society. He has promised to procure its safety and advantage as far as in his power: and how can he serve it with zeal, fidelity, or courage, if he has not a real love for it?”

    That modern era being 1758, although the book took nearly a decade to compile. Although extolling the goodness of free countries, this view is across all countries and peoples, these were seen as part of that universal condition of being human. When you are part of a country and its society by intent and conscious reason, then you wish to be a part of it and love it and that requires love for oneself first. If all you can see are flaws in yourself, then how can you honestly commit to loving your country? That goodness must be reflected in you and a part of you so that you can acknowledge it and accept it: that is why you are a citizen of a country.

    Going on from there:

    Ҥ 122. Definition of the term country.
    The term, country, seems to be pretty generally known: but as it is taken in different senses, it may not be unuseful to give it here an exact definition. It commonly signifies the State of which one is a member: in this sense we have used it in the preceding sections; and it is to be thus understood in the law of nations.

    In a more confined sense, and more agreeably to its etymology, this term signifies the state, or even more particularly the town or place where our parents had their fixed residence at the moment of our birth. In this sense, it is justly said, that our country cannot be changed, and always remains the same, to whatsoever place we may afterwards remove. A man ought to preserve gratitude and affection for the state to which he is indebted for his education, and of which his parents were members when they gave him birth. But as various lawful reasons may oblige him to choose another country, — that is, to become a member of another society; so. when we speak in general of the duty to our country, the term is to be understood as meaning the state of which a man is an actual member; since it is the latter, in preference to every other state, that he is bound to serve with his utmost efforts.”

    An essential freedom is to change your citizenship and allegiance to another country, no state may take that from you. While you do so on a conscious level, a debt of gratitude to being born and raised is also a part of one’s makeup, even when their allegiance to that country is no longer working there is acknowledgement of its gift to you. Changing allegiance is a conscious decision that an individual takes up by their temperment and their actions: declaration of it is not enough, one must actually move and seek to join that country they wish to be a part of. That is why you took that action, and the benefit you gain is to be a citizen and considered as a citizen of that country that has accepted you as a part of it.

    The right to want to change citizenship is one that is part of all mankind. It is also the right of the peoples in that destination to decide if they want you. That is why, as Jefferson put it, that governments are instituted among men to secure those rights… to have a society and country that are defined by those within it. That, too, is a right and may not be denigrated and is natural across all mankind. It is better, as de Vattel would go through, that Nations accept that right to change allegiance and accept individuals, but that Nation can put restrictions on such migration. And as part of Nations, the originating Nation may place exceptions on who may leave, though they should be limited as the basis of good government.

    Then there are one’s actions in that country you have sought to be a part of:

    Ҥ 123. How shameful and criminal to injure our country.
    If every man is obliged to entertain a sincere love for his country, and to promote its welfare as far as in his power, it is a shameful and detestable crime to injure that very country. He who becomes guilty of it, violates his most sacred engagements, and sinks into base ingratitude: he dishonours himself by the blackest perfidy, since he abuses the confidence of his fellow-citizens, and treats as enemies those who had a right to expect his assistance and services. We sec traitors to their country only among those men who are solely sensible to base interest, who only seek their own immediate advantage, and whose hearts are incapable of every sentiment of affection for others. They are, therefore, justly detested by mankind in general, as the most infamous of all villains.

    § 124. The glory of good citizens (51) Examples
    On the contrary, those generous citizens are loaded with honour and praise, who, not content with barely avoiding a failure in duly to their country, make noble efforts in her favour, and are capable of making her the greatest sacrifices. The names of Brutus, Curtius, and the two Decii, will live as long as that of Rome. The Swiss will never forget Arnold de Winkelried, that hero, whose exploit would have deserved to be transmitted to posterity by the pen of a Livy. He truly devoted his life for his country’s sake: but he devoted it as a general, as an undaunted warrior, not as a superstitious visionary. That nobleman, who was of the country of Underwald, seeing, at the battle of Sempach, that his countrymen could not break through the Austrians, because the latter, armed cap-a-pie, had dismounted and forming a close battalion, presented a front covered with steel, and bristling with pikes and lances, — formed the generous design of sacrificing himself for his country. “My friends,” said he to the Swiss, who began to be dispirited, ” I will this day give my life to procure you the victory: I only recommend to you my family: follow me, and act in consequence of what you see me do.” At these words he ranged them in that form which the Romans called cuneus, and placing himself in the point of the triangle, marched to the centre of the enemy, when, embracing between his arms as many of the enemy’s pikes as he could compass, he threw himself to the ground, thus opening for his followers a passage to penetrate into the midst of this thick battalion. The Austrians, once broken, were conquered, as the weight of their armour then became fatal to them, and the Swiss obtained a complete victory.5”

    One cannot debase their country, attack its virtues and be said to do anything but injuring their country. If, on the Left we hear no good about America that is an attack upon it to do injury to the common basis of citizenship we have. Holding up good examples and extolling them are far, far better than attacking the evils and putting forth no good at all. That said that love of country must not blind us to our country’s faults, as the Right is accused of doing, rather it must also bring attention to the perfection of our country, which is discussed by de Vattel elsewhere.

    A ‘critic’ who offers no building, no definable goal, nothing that shows how a path to being more perfect can be found is offering nothing, save verbiage. Even worse, one who tears down with no attempt to understand activities taken nor to show the good and virtuous examples within the country does injury to it. Blindness of the ready ability to do evil for one’s country is frought with danger and will allow the imperfections of the country to continue onwards unaddressed.

    That is not just for America, but all countries and Nations.

    We come together in this land to seek more perfect Union together – we are imperfect as that realm of perfection is left for the Angels and Deities. The perfect will elude as we are imperfect people… but we can ever strive to be more perfect for ourselves and seek that for our country. That is why there is never work left to be done, and why it is passed on to those that follow perhaps made just a bit better by our having been here, warts and all.

    If you see nothing to safeguard from the past, you have none.

    If you see nothing to work for in the future, you have none.

    “Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission.”

  3. 3
    still liberal Said:
    12:54 pm 

    For the life of me, I do not understand why Rick Moran is not a national political columnist. This piece is a better explanation of conservative patriotism (and conservative thought)than Krauthammer, Goldberg, Malkin, Coulter or Bennett ever dreamed of producing. Some conservative ideas set my teeth on edge, but all Americans need to understand each other, even when (or especially when) we don’t agree. This blog is where I come for the best take on conservatism, even when I get pissed off by it on occasion! Keep up the outstanding thought and the craft of writing.

    Your thoughts are much appreciated.


  4. 4
    Allen Said:
    1:05 pm 

    This, your earlier piece, and Mr. Beinart’s were all stirring, congratulations are very much in order.

    The line “the most schizophrenic nation imaginable” especially hit it out of the park. That one gave me a hearty laugh and a “tis true” moment.

    Excellent writing, thank you.

  5. 5
    Captain Hate Said:
    2:08 pm 

    Whenever I’m in a discussion with somebody who doesn’t share my opinion and I feel that it’s about to get off the rails I say “I know that you honestly feel that your way will produce the most amount of good for the most amount of people; will you concede the same for me?” and/or “This is only my opinion, no matter how strongly felt; I could be wrong in this.” If that doesn’t defuse a potential argument then there’s no point in going any further with that person.

  6. 6
    Thomas Jackson Said:
    6:36 pm 

    Of course Leftists love the future. It doesn’t exist. They show no love for the country that is reality because they are enamored of fantasy. True Americans love this country for its past which demonstrates the changes that have occurred to uphold the promise of the future. The Left pretends to love the country yet shows only scorn for it while always forgetting no other nation has changed peacefully as much as the USA or spread freedom and liberty to so many people.

    Leftist patriotism. Yeah go to San Francisco or Amherst.

  7. 7
    DrKrbyLuv Said:
    7:50 pm 

    Patriotism has devolved into a predominantly right hemisphere brain function. Modern “patriotic” hyperbole has literally changed the meaning of the word as used by our founding fathers. Our founding fathers cautioned us repeatedly that we must be forever vigilant to maintain our freedom; this is our duty as patriots. Thomas Paine summed this up best in saying “It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government”

    Our forefathers were very suspicious of any government, including the one they had created. They knew that human nature is such that the individuals running the Government would, given the opportunity, stop serving the interests of the people in pursuit of their own benefit. Patrick Henry put the government in context when he said “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

    What were they so concerned with? In a chilling letter to Col. William Elkins, President Lincoln warns “We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war [civil war] is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood … It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

    Perhaps the greatest conservative of all time, Barry Goldwater shared his great concern “Most Americans have no real understanding of the operation of the international money lenders. The accounts of the Federal Reserve System have never been audited. It operates outside the control of Congress and manipulates the credit of the United States.”

    The banking powers have been incrementally taking control of the US for many years. The creation of the Federal Reserve Board in 1913 was a watershed moment, but it is nothing compared to what the Bush administration is planning.

    Another great watershed moment is coming all too quickly. The Bush administration is systematically and intentionally destroying our currency and economy in a move to move to a new currency, the Amero. The Amero will be the common currency for Canada, Mexico and the United States – which will form the North American Union.

    Unlike Europe’s move to the EU, our leaders have been meeting in secret to discuss their stealth plans. And unlike the Democratic EU, the North American Union will be a fascist regime.

    I know, it sounds unbelievable. The United States is quickly moving beyond the point of no return – we can no longer sustain our debt, we can no longer balance the budget.

    For the past seven years Bush has ran up huge deficits and flooded the US and the world with liquidity. This was the reason for the housing bubble – too much money was “created” through predatory loans. And, the Fed ramped up the printing presses greatly increasing the amount of cash. The actual amount of cash created is secret; Bernanke’s first act as Fed Chairman was to cease publication of the M3 reports.

    American news sources have largely ignored the real and imminent danger (fascism in action). The UK’s Telegraph ran a story today “Barclays warns of a financial storm as Federal Reserve’s credibility crumbles.” The story goes on to say “US central bank accused of unleashing an inflation shock that will rock financial markets, reports Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.”

    “Barclays Capital has advised clients to batten down the hatches for a worldwide financial storm, warning that the US Federal Reserve has allowed the inflation genie out of the bottle and let its credibility fall “below zero”.

    “We’re in a nasty environment,” said Tim Bond, the bank’s chief equity strategist. “There is an inflation shock underway. This is going to be very negative for financial assets. We are going into tortoise mood and are retreating into our shell. Investors will do well if they can preserve their wealth.”

    Note the use of the words “let its credibility fall below zero” – a direct reference to fraud. They aren’t the only ones preparing, the Dutch newspaper De Financiële Telegraaf also ran a story today stating that Fortis (large bank in the Netherlands) expects a complete collapse of the US financial markets within a few days to weeks. That explains, according to Fortis, the series of interventions of last Thursday to retrieve € 8 billion. “We have been saved just in time. The situation in the US is much worse than we thought”, says Fortis chairman Maurice Lippens. Fortis expects bankruptcies amongst 6000 American banks which have a small coverage currently. But also Citigroup, General Motors, there is starting a complete meltdown in the US.”

    In closing, I guess we will truly find out how patriotic we are in the coming weeks.

  8. 8
    Dale in Atlanta Said:
    8:29 pm 

    He then ties it neatly into presidential race by demonstrating how Obama’s and McCain’s patriotism may be different but still represents two sides of the same coin – love and devotion to the United States.

    Ah, that part of the article if a Fraud, unfortunately.

    “Conservatives”, whatever that means?, because I’m am NOT one, I’m an atheist, a registered Independent, and social liberal in many ways; “Conservatives DO love their country, despite their many and varied flaws.

    Democrats, and “Liberals”, which are really misnomers, because except for Joe Lieberman, there are NO “Democrats” left in America any more, and as for “Liberals”, even they, when they existed back in the 1960’s – 1990’s, were at least “American”.

    But “Democrats” and “Liberals” have been replaced since 2000, about 95% of them, by blatant Leftists, and these people, including Barack HUSSEIN Obama, DO NOT LOVE AMERICA, and are NOT “patriotic.

    They flat out, HATE and DESPISE America, and their sole goal, is to Destroy America, in some sort of orgy of self & societal suicide destruction.

    That includes people such as Barack HUSSEIN Obama, most of the former “Democratic” Leadership such as the Clintons, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, the Mainstream Media, the entire Hollywood crowd except for Ron Silver, Bruce Willis and Robert Duvall; etc.

    So don’t ever tell me these Anti-American/Pro-Jihadi Traitor Democratic Lying Leftist Nutbags™ are “Patriotic” or that they “love” America; they’re actions and words, on a daily basis, PROVE the exact Opposite.

  9. 9
    mannning Said:
    9:25 pm 

    Rick is to be congratulated on this post, and Peter as well on his. Taken together they define a sound basis for agreement on the essential love of country, and the needs for veneration of the good in the past, critique of the present, and what our future should entail.

    There is the rub, however! The ideals for the future between the conservative and the liberal are poles apart in so many issues—to name one: equal opportunity versus equal outcomes. These two concepts are fundamentally incompatible, resting as they do on reward for enterprise and initiative on the one hand, and economic and social leveling and collectivism on the other. Human nature is not so malliable.

    So is it true for security of the nation in this time: treating Islamic terrorism as an external threat to the nation requiring bold action, versus treating terrorism as merely a police matter not causing us to entertain much of any action except after the fact of a terrorist attack!

    So is it true for poverity, secularism, morals, and the other issues of abortion, same sex marriage, and certain limits of freedom for the common good.

    Thus, the question arises strongly in the minds of conservatives as to the real, true patriotism of those who would take our future into regions of thought, action and situations that we do not understand, and do not believe to be right for America—or for any people.

    It is one thing to critique the truly bad situations in the nation, but it another to use those situations as a wedge to realize a political objective such as serious movement of the nation further toward socialism or communism, neither of which any conservative could possibly stand or permit without a fight.

  10. 10
    mannning Said:
    10:15 pm 

    Spelling correction: malleable, not malliable

  11. 11
    Doug Said:
    11:01 pm 

    What those leftists and liberals who disparage America’s past for the crimes committed then do not understand, was well understood by the leftwing journalist I.F. Stone, who once said: history is tragedy, not melodrama.

  12. 12
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    11:41 pm 

    A pretty good article indeed; thanks for bringing it to my attention. However, I fail to understand how a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations such as Peter Beinart can be considered “one of the more thoughtful men of the left”. While hardly a den swarming with Neo-Cons, I just don’t believe the Council can be thought of as liberal in any sense of the word. (Having visited its Park Avenue home on several occasions, it didn’t strike me as that kind of place.) Nevertheless, its members do mean well overall, and frequently show more intelligence and nuance than the vast majority of our elected representatives. Anybody coming out of there is bound to be diplomatic as well as intelligent, thus partially explaining the successful tone of the article from Mr. Beinart.

    Finally, a minor quibble… Not to criticize good writing from TIME and Right Wing Nut House, but where do Moderates fall into play? Cannot love of country and patriotism happily exist between shrill damnation from the left and ignorant declarations from the right? Does one have to hold tilted views or angry thoughts to be a real American? Or is it because moderation doesn’t sell as well as liberalism and conservatism?

    Beinart is or was editor at The New Republic, a publications generally seen as left of center. Beinart himself was a supporter of the War in Iraq but has since soured on our being there.

    I think it is generally accepted that he is a liberal although not in very good standing with many on the left.


  13. 13
    funny man Said:
    12:34 am 

    Excellent treatise. On the bright side, where would the fun be if we’d all agree. IMHO,there is absolutely nothing wrong with patriotism, be it for a ‘hot woman’ or ‘seasoned wife’. It is where it gets out of hand, as in the jingoism of a Coulter and other so-called conservatives. The nationalism that belittles others and overextends our reach. I love the America that was generous to my country at the end of WWII. Like my dad never forgot how American GIs gave him and other kids candy. Perhaps a small gesture but it really shaped how a lot of people experienced the United States and (also with the help of the Marshall Plan) Germany was never the same again. WWII was also (in my view) where liberals and conservatives worked together for a common cause as most enlisted (Bob Dole, Bush senior and the Kennedys etc).
    For me conservatism just means a different role of the federal government than what liberals would prefer. However, that is just different opinions on how a country should be run not whether people love their country. Just one word to some of the posters who seem to believe liberals are just the hippie, tree hugging, self hating San Francisco crowd (or whatever). Germany (for American standards) is very liberal but also in certain aspects of their economy very successful. That doesn’t mean I agree with them but I also respect their opinion (as long as they respect mine). And YES, both sides have their lunatic, self-rightous fringes-gotta have something to laugh about. Again here, nice piece of work.

  14. 14
    Nagarajan Sivakumar Said:
    4:54 pm 


    Here’s approaching this patriotism question in a different way – would a patriot be a person who takes positions that stick closest to the ideals of the Constitution ? Just asking.

    Also, i was hoping that you’d post about the Heller decision – and how it addresses the issue of individual liberty and individual rights as opposed to the collectivist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

    Why is it that liberals adopt principles that go against the fundamental premise of the Republic – namely individual freedom, lesser Government and strong national defense.

    I feel that conservative criticism of liberal’s idea of patriotism (or the lack there of) is pretty spot on. And i dont say this to be mean or in a bitter way.

  15. 15
    bour3 Said:
    7:38 pm 

    I no longer have patience for this. The liberal(ism) and the conservative(ism) that can be talked about is not the real liberal and conservative. It’s rather like a koan. Those are arbitrary and unfortunate designations that force fit our thinking into convenient categories for the purpose of making generalizations that no longer make sense no matter how brilliantly and touchingly they’re communicated. They’re too faulty to be useful. They set us against one another unnaturally. I do despise them, these designations. I look forward to the day both these miserable parties, and all the designations assigned to them, are consigned to the dustbins of history. I’m certain though, I won’t live that long, given everybody’s affection for them.

    Thank you. You’ve reaffirmed my decision to drop my subscription to Time, a magazine that actually used to be useful to me.

    Yes, yes, let’s all hold hands and stop alll this squabbling. Why can’t everyone just agree with YOU and drop any arguments that run contrary to your received wisdom? Let’s just drop all this liberal/conservative baloney and accept the fact that you have all the answers and anyone who disagrees with you should be consigned to the “dustbin of history.”

    Democracy is about disagreement. It is about rhetoric, and word combat, and fighting for your ideals. It is messy, not very efficient, maddening, and full of dishonorable, disreputable people.

    And I’d give my life to keep it from falling into the hands of people like you.


  16. 16
    mannning Said:
    8:49 pm 

    Someone here wishes for a non-liberal, non-conservative state of bliss, probably wanting the campfire syndrome to take hold. One other wants leftists to be respected, and still others are adamant rightists. A marvelous mixture!

    It shows the power of an idea—patriotism—to fire all sides into commenting, including the idea of floating above the fray with distain for the peasants below that, in their ignorance, struggle mightily to survive the onset of insidious dissolution of the nation they love by misguided and arrogant elitists.

    It shows that very many real issues divide us instead of uniting us today, and I do not see this abating, especially if Obama reaches the seat of power. Far from being a uniter, this man is no patriot, and has no concept of such an act, as his 20 year absorption of Black Liberation attests. Nor could he ever succeed, for that matter..

    We have few, if any, patriotic center-leftists remaining. There is only the rabble on the far left, the so-called moonbats, to hear in every channel of communication. Patriotism? Does anyone really believe in that virtue on the far left? Do they have anything useful to add to the common good besides abortion, porn, gay marriage, promiscuous behavior, abhorrant elitism, internationalism, loss of our sovereignty and spending far more taxpayer dollars?

    Patriotism on the left?

    Bah humbug!

  17. 17
    pbuck Said:
    8:58 pm 

    I became a regular reader of RightWingNutHouse upon reading your October article on patriotism.

    I’m happy to see you revisit the topic; your analysis remains thoughtful and considerate.

  18. 18
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    11:12 pm 

    Let me add a further observation; it is true that one observes more patriots on the right than on the left, just as there are more christians on the right than on the left. However, there is the issue of sincerity and being true to the actual ideals and practices of patriotism and/or religion.

    In my experience, liberals don’t lie about these kind of things; I know plenty of left-thinking people who deny being patriotic and/or religious. In fact, I have come to expect one or the other (or both) from them. By contrast, I can count on my hands the number of right wingers who dislike America and/or prayer. Yet how many conservative folks are full of garbage when it come time to practice what they preach? Way too many to count! Why can’t they be honest and admit they prefer the USA to be a police state, or they can’t keep the 10 commandments?

    It is my conclusion that the right SAYS they are more patriotic than the left is, and they are correct…many times it’s just words, no meaning or drive behind being a true patriot (or christian). Frankly, I am disappointed in both sides, but if a gun were put to my head to choose sides, the folks who lie less abut their intentions would get my vote! 14 years ago it would have been the Republicans, but they have come a long and ugly way since then…

  19. 19
    mannning Said:
    1:49 am 

    One has to wonder at the trajectory in life and in society being traced by an individual that finds many lies on the right and much truth on the left. Why, he must be spending too much time with only the left that is truthful and too much time with only the right that are liars. What a strange and highly selective path he follows.

  20. 20
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    7:24 am 

    Hey manning, what give you the impression that I like the left? I don’t! I despise the face that so many of them are non-patriotic, and overly critical of America without placing our history in proper context. My only point in their favor was that at least they were upfront about it.

  21. 21
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    7:31 am 

    By the way Rick, thanks for answering my question about Peter Beinart, he sounds like quite an interesting character. Seeing that he in his late 30’s, no doubt he will be writing many more articles. I must may, I do like your quote about him:

    “I think it is generally accepted that he is a liberal although not in very good standing with many on the left.”

    Heh heh heh…Sort of like Joe Lieberman?

  22. 22
    Neo Said:
    8:47 am 

    the loop regarding the content of “social studies” textbooks

    I got a hold of a new history textbook a few years ago and I must say it didn’t just dwell on the sins of America, it could see no good.

    I thumbed to the section on Carter .. they didn’t like him, to Reagan .. they hated him, to Bush .. hated him too, to Clinton .. they had their doubts but were hoping.

    This glass wasn’t just half empty .. it was dirty, germ-filled, and toxic.

  23. 23
    mannning Said:
    12:06 pm 

    That is sort of comforting, Stew, I guess. But in my reading of your post, you attack conservatives just a bit too unjustly. What you seem to dislike are the liars that are also politicians, and there we can agree completely. However, the horrible lies and counter intuitive positions coming from the left, both from politicians and leftists, in the past eight years are to me far, far more distainful than anything from the right. That is what I critique.

  24. 24
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    12:44 pm 

    Perhaps you are correct in your observation, manning, but after all, I am commenting on a blog called Right Wing Nut House. Attacking liberals here is like preaching to the choir! I should make it clear that I was making my left/right critiques on personal observation just as much as anything that I have read. As to who are the bigger liars in this election cycle, we shall just have to agree to disagree, I’m afraid.

  25. 25
    mannning Said:
    1:01 pm 

    So be it, Stew. I must reply that it is rather difficult to track down every lie from every politico and government servant, regardless of political ideology. I must also say that disagreement with policy, legislation, orders, or votes is not a catalog of left or right lies, per se, but the real motives on either side do matter immensely! That puts the left on the negative side of life and times.

  26. 26
    Jake Said:
    1:42 pm 

    Good piece, though a (relatively) minor quibble.
    One often (rightly) faults the left for painting obscene caricatures of Republicans arguing that conservatives aren’t just gun-totin’ redneck nationalists (as this blog proves time and again). I just wish that courtesy was reciprocated and you didn’t paint obscene caricatures of liberals as a group of of self-hating coastal elitists.
    Rick, you said back in October:
    “For the left to paint all conservatives and all Americans who express their love of country in a more demonstrable fashion than liberals as xenophobes and simple minded, brainwashed automatons is outrageously arrogant.”

    To which I would add
    “For those on the right to paint all liberals and all Americans who express any critique of their government as traitors and anti-American is outrageously arrogant and deeply offensive.”

    Just askin…

    Aravosis’ politics cocern me not. Or at least they are a tangential issue to his being a sewer rat of the first order. Politics is a very tough game – which why when a line is crossed, you come down like a ton of bricks on the the one who crosses it.

    Aravosis, as I point out, has been doing it for years. He is beyond redemption and should be forsworn by all liberals who should refuse to visit his site or pay any attention to him. You will no longer find any Ann Coulter quotes here – even to criticize her. Ditto for Pat Buchanan and a few others. The left should do the same to Aravosis.


  27. 27
    Thomas Jackson Said:
    10:34 pm 

    If people want to see what happens when a Leftist version of patriotism triumphs visit Europe. There is no pride in their history, culture nor traditions. What is of vital importance is figuring out how to game the system to obtain more beer and fags. The highpoint of these people’s lifes is being able to riot after some soccer match.

    No wonder people are leaving Europe in numbers not seen in a hundred years.

  28. 28
    Jake Said:
    12:17 pm 


    Which is why the French celebrate Bastille Day every year, or worry so much about the creeping influence of English on the French language that there’s a government bureau dedicated to preserving and protecting it (an extreme example of a country taking TOO much pride in their culture, but that smacks too much of the Conservative version of patriotism to be uttered in decent company). Or for that matter, why riots erupted after Spain won the Euro championship – more than just “some soccer match.”

    Anyone who claims that there is “no pride in their history, culture nor traditions,” would be better served asking an actual European about their history, culture, and traditions first. This may come as a shocker, but most Europeans view the creeping Americanization of the world as a bad thing.

  29. 29
    Thomas Jackson Said:
    2:16 pm 


    I spent ten years in Europe, how long have you lived there? If you think Americans don’t know their history ask any European to relate the history of their Royal houses or the role of religion in their country. Most British young adults dio not know the role of Churchill in their nation’s history. I doubt how many Brits could identify Ramilies, Blenheim, or Crecy.

    I did enjoy your example of the French and defending their language. Little wonder France continues to decline into irrelevance rapidly while the USA examines, adopts and alters foreign influences each and every day.

    The Europeans usually remark on the many flags they see flying in the USA. When you speak to them you find that the nations of Europe do not display their flags because their people do not feel the same attachment Americans do. Doubt it, ask any naturalized European.

    As for the French, a nation more ignorant of their history has yet to be found. Its odd but the Eastern European states have a far better knowledge of their culture and history than does the West. Perhaps its because they realize what conquered nation go through.

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