Is Patriotism Good? | Reflections on the 4th of July

Today, I’d like to take a break from the series I’ve been rolling out to discuss patriotism in honor of Independence Day. We should always be grateful for our country and what it affords us, but I think the 4th of July is a great time to stop and reflect on that more deeply. So, I want to look at this topic generally, but also specifically in regards to my love of my country and my heritage.

What is Patriotism?

It can be hard to offer a patriotism definition, largely because it encompasses so much. Basically, I look at it as a love for one’s own country and a recognition of and gratitude for what his country offers. That is not normally how I find people describing it. We often misconstrue American patriotism, for instance, by limiting it to assenting to the values our founders described. While I think a patriot is one who does love the founding of his country, I think there can be room for criticism or dissent. Also, it encompasses more than just that – especially since many nations have been founded on different grounds.

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

I do think there’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism, but it’s nuanced. To understand that, I’d like to point to the American founding. A nation is “a relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.” (via The American Heritage Dictionary)

Justice demands us to love our country and be grateful to it. But, as we saw in early America, a unified people can fall apart. By the time of our founding, we were in many ways a separate nation, which is how our founders justified their separation.

Patriotism Quotes

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Thomas Jefferson

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”

Clarence Darrow

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

Elmer Davis

‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’

Gilbert K. Chesterton

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