On Patriotism

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Those were the words of Samuel Johnson when he decried those who used the term in defense of self-serving issues. Those words are as meaningful today as when he first committed those words to print in 1775. His reference was not to patriotism, but to the abuse of the term by those who use them for their own purposes. Who has not seen the words patriotism and/or freedom used to define an issue that related neither to patriotism nor to freedom in an attempt to solicit our support?

For example, patriotism and freedom are used by those who deny the validity of the COVID-19 vaccine, and by those who refuse to wear masks, even though such actions protect them and also others. The words are also used by those who would attempt to falsify the results of legitimate elections to ensure their candidates are placed in office. Additionally, these words are sometimes in the names of organizations, usually conservative, to promote their specific agendas. This is not patriotism, nor is it freedom; at worst such misuse of words could be seditious or treasonous; at best it is duplicitous or perfidious. Examples of what many would call duplicitous might be the USA Patriot Act and the USA Freedom Act, neither of which is a display of love of country or of individual freedom. We do all of us a disservice when we use such words to make our topic palatable (even when the word isn’t used, such as in the phrase, “America, love it or leave it.”)

The true definition of the word, patriot, is for those who have love of country and value being of the people in that country, willing to sacrifice where necessary for the good of all, including wearing masks for the safety of all, following confirmed medical advice on preventing expansion of viruses and their resulting deaths, and willing to see their candidates lose in elections because the majority voted for another. This is not to be confused with nationalism, the belief that “my country is better than yours”. Patriotism, by itself, does not mean a disregard for other countries or any superiority in relation to other countries.”

Patriotism and freedom are words of substantial meaning and I become suspicious whenever I see them used because, unfortunately, their use too often is for a topic or cause or action that is neither. Am I a patriot? I am. I served honorably in the military, I pay taxes, I vote in every election, I support elected officials even when I did not vote for them, and I use my First Amendment rights to voice my opinion when I disagree. My concern is that I see two different avenues of information today: one of truth and one of what many call “fake news.” Regrettably, it appears that fake news is winning.