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Last week Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives refused to read the names of the brave Marines and Navy Corpsmen who died in Afghanistan on the first day of the American chaotic retreat. Several members of Congress who themselves were veterans asked that after the opening prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance the names of the slain heroes be read into the record. Before this could be accomplished, Congress went into recess at the direction of leadership! When we consider that the same group kneeled in the Capitol Rotunda for George Floyd, a convicted felon who resisted arrest and died tragically at the hands of a police officer, one does wonder if patriotism or at least a love of country is part of their ethos?

Maybe they want to love a different country than the one that we have. More about that later. How ambivalent the word Patriotism looks when invoked by different people who have opposite views regarding political theory and policy. Adam Schiff, Anthony Weiner, AOC, and of course let’s not forget Congressman Eric Swalwell who claimed he was doing his “Patriotic duty” while being involved romantically with a Chinese spy—all claim to be patriots. For gosh sakes maybe Jonathan Turley was performing a patriotic act during his infamous at home online panel discussion on CNN!

Many in the mainstream press and the academy wrongly equate patriotism (healthy patriotism) and nationalism (unhealthy patriotism) Patriotism is first and always grounded in the love for family and love of place, and a love for a way of life. G. K. Chesterton once opined that the reason for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners is the same reason that he did not want his house to be burned down—”because he could not enumerate all the things that he would miss” Nationalism is a devotion to a culture that sees itself as better than other cultures. Nationalism is aggressive. Patriotism is contrite. Patriotism wants for you what I have. Nationalism in all its’ ugly forms wants to keep what I have for myself. One is inclusive—the other is exclusive.

Another common misconception is the word “exceptionalism”. It doesn’t mean that I am better than you. It doesn’t mean that I hold a higher place than you in a particular cultural hierarchy or cast system. It means I have been the providential recipient of talents and opportunities that require of me a higher duty and responsibility toward the service of others. Many of these opportunities have been the result of labors and sacrifices that others made who came before me and to not acknowledge these gifts would be to relinquish responsibility for my own position in life. If through my own labor I have not acknowledged the God who gave me these many gifts, I would then not be responsible for the disposition of charity that is required for having these gifts. Nationalism on the other hand rejects the role of Providence in the transaction between benefactor and the recipient. The State becomes a god that we must show our allegiance too, and man becomes supplicant to the state. Sounds like Fascism and Marxism in all its forms? And always Christianity and science absolutely forbid the evil racial assertion that “I am better than you” because of the color of my skin or my ethnicity or my gender or how I identify with one group or another, or if I am an expert or “work for the government”.

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A second underlying principle is a respect for one’s country’s past—not a reverence but an understanding that as C. S. Lewis states is “designed to both hold on to assurance and define an obligation” that we must not fall below the standards of our fathers ” and because we are their son’s there is the hope that we will not”. Those coming into our country as new citizens should understand just what those standards are and, in my opinion, new citizens are far more understanding of our liberties and freedoms than many Americans born in this country. Every country’s history is filled with goodness and evil. It is shabby and messy, but also in our case glorious and it is very important that both sides of history are told with context and appreciation for the good and the evil. Lewis again opines that “it is possible to be inspired by the image of the past without being puffed up.”

Those like Nancy Pelosi and AOC, and the liberal progressive left who reject traditional patriotism do so without telling us what steps into its’ place. Fascist nationalism or Marxism, or anarchy? The Greeks had a saying that “no man loves his country because it is great (or even just), he loves it because it is his country” and might I add despite its faults. It is because of this love of country that we want to continue to try to make it greater and more just.

Much has been written recently about our great national sin—slavery and the need for communal retribution and redress. Slavery has been in existence since the beginning of time in all its forms, and still exists today throughout the world (in all its’ forms). The ideas of the Enlightenment, The Great Awakening—the reestablishment of Judeo-Christian theology in the hearts of all men, the Industrial Revolution, and Capitalism all coming together over a” Four Score and Seven Year” time frame and culminating in one of the great liberating events in history—our own Civil War, where 600,000 men died—including 48000 Black men, needs to be celebrated by all who are American patriots. Four million souls and all their future generations were liberated at a great “cost” and a great price impossible to calculate. We are held morally accountable by a just God. Economic and political communal accountability across generations is impossible, but when attempted should always take into the calculous the unique and great patriotism of an unselfish people who sacrificed individually and as a nation to end that great universal sin.

If our country’s cause is to glorify God and not glorify man—totalitarianism, then there will still be wars to be fought, because there will always be false gods for weak men to worship. Evil must always be confronted for what it is—making man a god. When weak men worship false gods, they always end up being slaves to those same gods.

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