What is patriotism?

To me, it seems like the Democratic Party has completely lost its way in regards to patriotism. You almost never hear Hillary Clinton talk about patriotism in any way (and Hillary is an ardent internationalist), and, although Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nationalist (or the closest person to a left-wing nationalist in American politics), you don’t hear too much of any patriotic rhetoric from Bernie. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been pushing a brand of phony patriotism that involves thumping the Bible at every opportunity and stirring up hatred and resentment to anyone who isn’t a white, male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical Southern Baptist for decades.

I think that it’s time to ask ourselves: what is patriotism?

My own vision of patriotism is derived from two pieces of inspiration. The first is from the late former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who was twice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, but lost both times to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, from his 1952 speech to the American Legion convention in New York City:

We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

The second is a country music song called “America First”, performed by Merle Haggard:

Now, I’ll talk about what is not patriotism. Patriotism is not shoving your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) down everyone else’s throats. Patriotism is not sending American troops off to war for the mere sake of sending troops off to war. Patriotism is not making America more a part of an international community that threatens America’s economy on a daily basis. Patriotism is not making America the police force for the entire world. Patriotism is not putting the national security of foreign countries before the national security of America. Patriotism is not infringing on the rights of the American people in the name of a religious deity and/or America.

Most importantly, I’ll talk about what is patriotism. Patriotism is fighting to make America, not foreign countries, a better place to live for everyone. Patriotism is fighting to ensure justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Patriotism is protecting and expanding the most important of all rights, voting rights. Patriotism is understanding that civic duty is a lifelong responsibility. Left-wing nationalism is true patriotism.

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