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A Grateful Patriot, not a Proud Nationalist

July 4th, 2008 | by Liberal Jarhead |

Thinking about the meaning of Independence Day… maybe I’m weird, but I’ve always wondered about people taking pride in something they had no part in accomplishing, whether that’s who their ancestors were or winning the Revolutionary War.  Maybe it has to do with confusing different definitions of the word “pride”,  but the way I see it, those may be things for which we might be thankful, whereas feeling proud makes more sense when it’s something we contributed to, like providing a nurturing upbringing to our kids, being a contributing member of a community, or a productive career.  My children are good people as young adults, and I’m pleased and grateful for that and happy for them, but other than whatever contribution I made as a parent, that’s theirs to be proud of, not mine to claim credit for, which saying I’m proud about it would feel like to me.

Something about the first kind of pride smacks of pretension and laziness, of trying to claim the greatness of others.  It always makes me think of something Robert Heinlein wrote about meeting an undistinguished little lizard who was proud of being a brontosaurus on his mother’s side.  So when I hear politicians urging people to be proud of things that others did, it bugs me.  Kind of like the recent trend in advertisements to pitch whatever they’re selling, no matter how frivolous, as something I “deserve”.  What did I do to deserve pretty furniture, a full head of hair, or whatever?  That’s silly, but it feeds into a mindset of entitlement that’s already too entrenched.  If I feel that something is nothing more than what I deserve, how grateful for it will I be?  So in that way, it ultimately makes me less likely to be happy and appreciative, more discontent and demanding.  In children, we used to describe that as being spoiled.  In adults, entitlement is one of the most prominent traits of sociopathy.

There’s also a critical distinction between patriotism and nationalism.  Patriotism is about loyalty to a system of government and a form of society based on their virtues, rather than to a group or society based on one’s own membership in it.  Nationalism leads to jingoism, imperialism, chauvinism.  True patriotism is always questioning, soul-searching, ready to acknowledge wrong and make it right, trying to make a good thing better.  It is never unpatriotic to question what one’s government or society is doing - if it’s right, that questioning will lead to renewed commitment and support.   The  Germans who challenged the Nazis were often patriots; those who blindly supported them were nationalists.

On the 232nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and the 145th year since the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 88th year since the 20th Amendment recognized the right of women to vote, here’s to patriotism and gratitude for what we’ve inherited from all those who worked and fought for those gifts to posterity.  Thank you, all those who gave us these things.  Let’s hope we take proper care of them and pass them on at least intact and at best improved.

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  1. 2 Responses to “A Grateful Patriot, not a Proud Nationalist”

  2. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    I don’t think of it as a matter of pride that we gained our independence but a celebration of the fact. When I look to the north and watch in horrid fascination as Canadians throw free speech and publication rights to the pack of wolves that are the various human rights commissions, south to Cuba, where freedom is non existent and Mexico where people are dying to get out of their native country and into ours and elsewhere in the world, I am proud of our country and grateful that I was born here but I don’t take pride in things I’ve had no particular part in.

  3. By rube cretin on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    LJ,
    Enjoyed your post. A little wisdom is appreciated as the fireworks do their thing and folks celebrate unaware of the real meaning of things. Nice to get a little dose of reality. Will it cure the hangover I expect in the morning?

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