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Beware competitive patriotism

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On this most patriotic of America’s annual holidays, I am marking the occasion by re-re-reposting a message of mine about love of country.

The subject here is what I call competitive patriotism, examples of which were widely evidenced when  American gymnast Gabby Douglas was faulted by pseudo-patriotic phonies for failing to put her hand over her heart as she stood at attention during the playing of her county’s national anthem at the Olympics in Rio.

These complaints are part and parcel of  the curious penchant among some people to cast themselves or their groups as more patriotic than thou, as if love of country is a competition. My flag is bigger than yours. I get bigger goosebumps than you do when I hear the National Anthem. I love America more than you do.

Recently, the pseudo-patriots have been up in arms over NFL quarterback Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the anthem at his team’s games.

Reliable pains in the derriere that they are, these self-appointed guardians of patriotic decorum can always be counted upon to assert themselves in such situations. They see it as a way to cast themselves as the truest and bluest of Americans.

Fortunately for the rest of us, these phonies don’t always represent only a majority of Americans. A poll of a few years ago showed that 60 percent of the nation’s populace consider themselves just as patriotic as the next guy, while one-third of Americans say they are more patriotic than most other people. Forty-three percent of Republicans in general and 51 percent of self-described Tea Party types in particular feel that way.

This sense of superior patriotism is also far more common among senior citizens than among younger folks. It’s also far more common among people who are especially critical of the federal government or highly critical of Barack Obama.

Some of these same folks are quick to embrace any theory, no matter how far-fetched, that Obama is not sufficiently patriotic. A few years ago, for example, a big fuss was made over news that Obama would not be attending the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

But the critics were hypocritical on several counts. They ignored the fact that George H.W. Bush skipped the Arlington ceremonies in each of his four years as president. And they said nothing about Ronald Reagan snubbing the Arlington doings on four of the eight Memorial Days during his presidency. (He was at his California ranch or something.)

The worst part of this knock on Obama’s patriotism was that it ignored the fact that he attended Memorial Day services that year at a military cemetery in Chicago.

Such phony raps against Obama’s Americanism are part and parcel of  the curious penchant among some people to cast themselves or their groups as more patriotic than thou, as if love of country is a competition. My flag is bigger than yours. I get bigger goosebumps than you do when I hear the National Anthem. I love America more than you do.

Republican politicians are far more likely than their Democratic counterparts to let everyone know that their patriotism is boundless. They do that, I’m sure,  because they sense that their political base is largely comprised of these competitive patriots.

Mitt Romney carried this penchant to ludicrous lengths when he offered this bit of gibberish during his presidential campaign of 2012: “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

The proclivity among some people to brag about their patriotism has always struck me as phony. I prefer American historian Maurice Garland Fulton’s definition: ‘True patriotism is quiet, simple, dignified; it is not blatant, verbose, vociferous.”

Another worthy definition came from Adlai Stevenson II, the former governor of Illinois,  in a speech 64 years ago this month at an American Legion convention:

“We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power, to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind, a patriotism that puts country ahead of self, a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

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2 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag

    Too often lately, conservatives define “True Patriotism” as wearing an American flag-pin somewhere at all times, with at least one stars & stripes tattoo visible to the naked eye (stars & bars are also acceptable with this crowd – yeah,
    I know, go figure…), and waving around a semi-automatic “long gun,” all while yelling “AMERICA! LOVE I5T,,OR LEAVE IT!!!”at the top of your lungs.

    Oy…

  2. Robert Hazz Geaunads

    How about some competitive hospitality? All the liberals can sponsor 5-10 African refugees and help relieve the burden on europe. Im sure you all have extra space for some bunk beds.

    Bill Gate’s is right though. The more generous nations are seen as being, its only natural for these refugees to take advantage of the countries with the best programs and benefits.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-05/bill-gates-urges-end-generosity-fears-african-refugees-will-decimate-europe

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