The 4th of July seems like a good time to revisit the vast difference between conservative and liberal conceptions of patriotism. Nine years ago I wrote an essay about this, using a Peter Beinart column as the jumping off point. Rather than repeat myself, I want to present some quotes that fairly represent my view of true patriotism.
Disclaimer: I have not taken the time to research to make sure all of these quotes are properly attributed, so it’s possible that one or two of them have been credited to the wrong person. But regardless of who actually said them, the statements are what matters to me.
I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. — John F. Kennedy
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. – George Washington
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. — Mark Twain
True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else. — Clarence Darrow
There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism. — Alexander Hamilton
I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service. — John F. Kerry
Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. —- Adlai Stevenson
The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plain. — George McGovern
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. — Howard Zinn
I especially like that last one. If you are a true patriot, as opposed to a shallow nationalist motivated mostly by tribalism, your allegiance is to ideals, to principles. And it is not only your right, it is your duty to dissent and protest when your country violates them. Go ahead and wave your flags; I’ll continue standing by the principles the country claims to stand for but so often violates.