Patriotism: No refuge for scoundrels

Posted: Oct 20, 2001 12:00 AM
The anti-American crowd has adopted as its motto, "Dissent is the true mark of a patriot." How about instead, "Dissent from such mindless strictures of political correctness is a surer mark of a patriot"? Before you easy-to-offend types jump to the wrong conclusion, I am not suggesting that those who love America never dissent from its policies. I'm not even saying that all those who oppose a military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not patriotic. But some aren't. Why all the fuss? Does patriotism even matter? George Washington obviously thought so. In his farewell address he said, "The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." This exhortation to national pride would doubtless make some elitists squirm. Some see America as a wretched symbol of imperialism and oppression. Others consider the nation-state as an outmoded concept. They disdain the notion of national sovereignty and believe we should relinquish more political power to international bodies. Still others think there is something inherently offensive about expressions of national unity. Their mindset arises from the postmodern concept of multiculturalism, which rejects the melting pot and its accompanying slogan, "E pluribus Unum" (Out of many, one.) They want to keep every culture and language conspicuously discrete and oppose the furtherance of a unique American culture. They regard demonstrations of nationalism as threatening to their vision of America as a culturally segregated society. I'm not exaggerating. Recently, students from several colleges in New York joined to create a global peace flag because they wanted to avoid creating the impression that this was "a nationalistic Americans-only kind of thing." A member of the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs similarly cautioned, "We need to start thinking of ourselves as an international family." The Council is discouraging the display of American flags because they "may become a symbol for an overzealous patriotic fervor that could exclude some Americans." Instead, they are distributing window signs that say, "We Support Our Arab American and Muslim Neighbors." A university professor was accused by two separate colleagues of being jingoistic (warlike) for flying the American flag. And, the head librarian at Florida Gulf Coast University ordered employees to remove "Proud to be an American" stickers to avoid offending foreign students. Just exactly what is it about displaying national pride that could possibly be offensive to foreigners who are among us as a matter of privilege? Why would anyone be offended at our cause against terrorism? And, if they are, should we defer to their misguided thinking? No flag-waving American that I've run across is advocating that we indiscriminately declare war on nations uninvolved with the genocidal attacks on our soil. None of us believes that we are in Afghanistan to absorb that nation into some global American empire. We are not even at war against Afghanistan itself, only the Taliban and al-Qaida. This is not just a semantic distinction. We are fighting alongside the Afghan Northern Alliance, making food drops to the Afghan people and striving mightily to avoid civilian casualties. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made it quite clear that America seeks "no real estate" in its war against the terrorists. We shouldn't sit idly by while others with questionable agendas endeavor to twist the concept of patriotism and, in the process, undermine ours. Patriotism is not an outmoded concept. It is not jingoistic. It is not the cause of this war – the terrorists are. But our patriotism will help to keep us united and focused as we face the enemy. Most of us don't love America simply because we are its citizens. Patriotism for us is not some mindless emotional attachment to our nation. While it generates visceral feelings of pride it has intellectual moorings as well. It springs forth from a deep devotion to our founding principles, chief among them being our glorious freedom safeguarded by the rule of law. Patriotism is vitally important because it is about more than mere survival. It emboldens us in our struggle to preserve our distinct way of life, because it understands that peace is not "so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery." As founding father Dr. Benjamin Rush noted, "Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families."