What comes to mind when you hear the word “Patriot”? Is it someone you respect in congress? Do you think of George Washington or Gettysburg? Do you see the epic image of Marines raising the tattered flag on Iwo Jima? Perhaps the firefighters and rescue workers standing upon heaps of rubble in downtown Manhattan chanting: “USA! USA!” Or maybe you see the blood-smattered face of Mel Gibson viciously launching Tomahawks at British Redcoats or as Braveheart screaming “FREEDOM!” as his entrails are ripped out?
What does it really mean to be a patriot, and is it something we should aspire to become? According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary a patriot is “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” The word has broad positive connotations, and I am of the opinion that, in its purest sense, patriotism is a positive thing; however, all good popular words are in danger of being usurped to market wickedness, and when that happens, we must pause and reconsider the definition to be sure we are not being semantically deceived into supporting such wickedness.
What patriotism should be:
I believe the purest form of patriotism is essentially love, even self-sacrificial love, for one’s neighbor. It is doing what is best for those in our neighborhood, community, and nation, and that includes protecting their liberties and protecting them from injustices that may come at the hand of enemies, whether foreign powers or corruption within. Some Christians have the idea that it is not for “God’s people” to be involved in politics or government or the military because Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world.” But I would argue that the many commands to “love your neighbor as yourself” and “seek justice for the oppressed” and “take care of the helpless” and “take care of the orphan and the widow” might be summed up in the word: patriotism. Patriotism in its purest form is love for the people of a nation and the ideals that bind them together.
What patriotism should not be:
Humans are tribal creatures. We gain our sense of belonging and purpose by being a part of a group – whether it is a sports team, a corporation, a school, a church, a political party, or a country. This tribalism makes it easy for us to leave behind the notions of patriotism based on love for people and love of justice, and replace them with the pride, the arrogance, the competitiveness, the lust for power that comes from being associated with a great and powerful entity such as a nation-state. If personal pride and arrogance lead to moral and spiritual blindness which in turn lead to one’s downfall, why do we think such pride and arrogance on a national scale will produce better results? Pride and arrogance should never be mistaken for patriotism. National arrogance leaves the citizens of a nation incapable of impartially assessing the faults within their own nation thereby providing a dark cover for corruption to molder. If any true patriot or prophet motivated by love for his fellow citizens and hatred of corruption takes it upon himself to challenge such arrogance or corruption, he is loathed for injuring the national pride and marginalized with the label: “unpatriotic”.
When love for a nation of people and the ideals that bind them together is replaced with pride in the power of a nation-state, it suddenly becomes “unpatriotic” to question the actions of the state – especially military actions. Before long, it is not merely “unpatriotic” but also a crime to do so. Pride is mingled with awesome fear to produce a system of complete control and enslavement of the population. Those Founding Fathers who led the political, physical, and spiritual fight to free this nation from the tyranny of corruption in England were not patriots because they worshiped the glory of the British nation-state – the empire on which the sun never set; no, they were patriots because they fought for the best interests of the people entrusted to their care against a corrupt establishment.
In America today, it is acceptable to criticize the state within certain boundaries defined by the left/right political system. One may criticize the actions of individual elected officials as being wrong-headed, immoral, or just plain dumb as defined by the talking points particular to their political party, but the actions and motives of the nation-state as a whole, particularly military actions or corporate actions, may not be criticized. The national pride has blinded Americans to believe that: although we (the nation-state) do some dumb things from time to time, our intentions are basically always pure and honest. Because our tribal identity is wrapped up in the actions of the nation-state we have a hard time receiving criticism on the actions of the state.
Those who offer proof that there is a growing “dark side” of corruption or a “shadow government” that manifests itself in various ways – such as false flag attacks like 9/11 or the CIA drug smuggling operations or the public-private revolving doors between corporations and regulatory agencies – deeply wound the national pride and arouse the hatred of those whose identity is wrapped up in the greatness of the nation-state. Such patriots are marginalized by the corporately controlled mainstream media with labels like, “conspiracy theorist” “truther” “birther” “deather” etc. The people are taught to slap simple thoughtless labels on anyone who injures the national pride just as the sheep were taught to chant “four legs good; two legs bad!” in Animal Farm.
Pure patriotism is being replaced with its evil twin: nationalism – love for the state over love for people. The ideals that formerly bound Americans together are being diluted and love for one’s neighbor is being supplanted with pride in the greatness of man’s institutions. America is dying for lack of true patriots who are willing to take a good hard look in the proverbial mirror, dissociate their identity from the greatness of a nation-state, humbly investigate and acknowledge the truth, and courageously go about fighting for the best interests of the people and the ideals that they love and cherish.