Patriotism and the Olympics

We’ve covered patriotism a few times here, but recently I considered it in light of Independence Day. The issue rarely comes up, and my conclusion was rather concise: it was good to be patriotic, but not the greatest good, and you should read Brett McCracken’s thoughts on this. But now the issue stares me square in the face, as our nation sends the best our athletes to compete with other nations’ respective bests. The events function as a sort of strutting about, seeking to prove we are the best at some particular sport or another, but without the casualty of war. Our dominance can be in gold medals, rather than empty bullet shells. Well, that’s the idea, anyway. Continue reading Patriotism and the Olympics

Patriotism and the Fourth of July

I contemplated whether or not I should write a post for the Fourth of July. The holiday has never been wildly important in my family, though I’ve done my share of wearing red, white, and blue, and even temporarily dying my hair one year. I’ve made the trek to see fireworks at both the Washington Monument and the Air Force Academy, the latter an experience my father was particularly excited about, as a graduate of that particular school. Continue reading Patriotism and the Fourth of July

The Patriot’s Asterisk:
Why We Shouldn’t be Ashamed to be Patriots

Recently a number of intellectual bloggers have been debating the concept of patriotism (see here, here, here, and here.) The conflict over such a mundane and seemingly uncontroversial term highlights the fact that we Americans have conflicted feelings about the word “patriot.”
To question someone’s patriotism is considered an insult, while to praise their patriotism is a compliment (except when it isn’t). Yet strangely, the only people who refer to themselves, completely without irony or qualification, as “patriots” are old veterans, paleo-cons, and pro athletes in New England.
Of course, people who do not fit into those three categories sometimes self-identify with that label. But when they do it is inevitably accompanied by an asterisk, denoting–whether expressed or implied–that the use of the word comes with a qualifier:

*Sure, I love my country but I that doesn’t mean I support ________. (George Bush, the war, etc.)
*That doesn’t mean I think America is better than other countries.
*Of course I would never, ever serve (nor let my child enlist) in the military.
*But I’m nothing like those Bible-thumping, flag-fetishizing, NASCAR-loving, types of “patriots.”

The need to invoke such conditionals raises the question of whether the person truly identifies with the term. A Japanese reporter once inquired of filmmaker Michael Moore, “You do not seem to like the U.S., do you?” Moore’s response sums up the sentiment behind the patriot’s asterisk: “I like America to some extent.”

Continue reading The Patriot’s Asterisk:
Why We Shouldn’t be Ashamed to be Patriots