Editor, The Beacon:
I believe I am a patriot. I love my country. But I also love my wife, my family, my church … and they, God bless ’em, aren’t perfect … nor is the country where I live and pay taxes. Still, I love that nation the lady in New York Harbor symbolizes.
At this particular moment, our country is beset by political anxieties, divided over how to resolve them, and it has become so highly charged, some have resorted to violent measures.
The contrasts and polarization are even carried over into the church, where, at best, people just don’t talk about it and, at worst, leave in a huff. Sad.
For some, the only acceptable choice is a narrow nationalism: My country, right or wrong. Love it as it is (or was) or leave it, often with racial/ethnic overtones.
The other pole is to abandon all tradition, morality and culture … equally unacceptable.
Steven Smith has written a book recently titled Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes. He argues, “… patriotism is necessary and morally justifiable.” He explores the link between patriotism and loyalty.
All human relationships — personal and institutional — hang together on the basis of shared commitment to a way of life.
Early tribes were loyal for protection and community. There were benefits and costs. Some significant consensus was necessary for the good of the whole. It was no small achievement.
I recall a remark of Benjamin Franklin as he was leaving Constitution Hall following the signing of the document that essentially created the U.S. of A.
A woman asked him, “What kind of a government have you given us?” His answer, “A republic … if you can keep it.”
One challenge is that we are reminded by our Christian faith that our moral duty is to all, not just those we favor or are familiar with. It can become exclusionary and claim an exceptional status among all peoples and nations, which can justify exploiting others.
God so loved the world.
Still patriotism is important. To be a citizen is a way of life, to exist in a context that presumes both the rule of law, equality under the law and substantial freedom.
It must be remembered that freedom is not just liberty to do and say as you like. Most would agree that freedom in democracy necessitates some surrender of “rights” and agreed-upon virtues.
Yes, virtues matter … including fair play, the willingness to examine one’s motives, to “do unto others as …” and even patriotism … loyalty to nation, to be true to its principles.
When it errs, work peacefully to find and follow what is good, right and true for its citizenry and, as we can, to all.
There is much to be proud of, but we must be self-critical and aspirational. There is but one Sovereignty that ultimately and currently matters, who governs justly and whose nature is love. (I could be wrong, but not that last sentence.)
J. Lawrence Cuthill