Tobacco Road Fogey

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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Some thoughts on patriotism

Michele had a wonderful piece about patriotism on Tuesday. I'd just like to add a few thoughts of my own about the subject.

I've been thinking quite a lot about patriotism during the past few weeks. The best capsule definition of patriotism, in my mind, was stated by President John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you?ask what you can do for your country.
A patriotic act is an act done not for yourself, but for your country and for your fellow citizens.

It is an act which strives to make your country better.

It is an act which lifts your fellow citizens up, making them stronger than they were before.

It is an act which reflects the best your country has to offer the world and provides a positive example for those countries whose people long for the privileges you enjoy.

Patriotism does not require you to support your government when it is wrong, but it does require that you present your dissent from such policy in a well-reasoned, truthful, and respectful way.

Well-reasoned, in that you can demonstrate where your government is acting against traditional national values or universal human values.

Truthful, in that your claims are supported by readily available facts. Truthful, in that your claims do not depend on tortured misrepresentations of the positions of your opponents. Truthful, in that your proposed alternative is clearly stated and attempts to address the problems raised by your opponents.

Respectful, in that your dissent does not rely on demonization of your opponents. Respectful, in that consequences of your act of dissent do not trample the rights of your fellow citizens.

Unfortunately, I fear that the words "patriotic" and "unpatriotic" have been so poorly used over the past few weeks and months that they have nearly been divorced from their real meanings.

Smashing your Dixie Chicks CD is not a patriotic act.

Neither is carrying around a sign which compares President Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Peaceably protesting against the war is not unpatriotic, but using that protest knowingly to spread falsehoods about your government or your fellow citizens is unpatriotic.

And telling protestors that they need to go live in another country, if they don't like what this country is doing, is definitely not patriotic.

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