This is an article written by Dr. Sam Holliday, scheduled to be released 8 Sept 2008. I am posting it with his permission.
8 Sept 2008
Dr. Sam Holliday
Looking directly into the camera during his acceptance of the Democrat nomination Sen. Barack Obama said: “I’ve got news for you John McCain. We all put our country first.” To this McCain replied: “I do not question his patriotism. I question his judgment.” But the American people need to understand the two very different meanings of the word “patriot” and to recognize the consequences of replacing the traditional meaning with the postmodern meaning. They do need to question Obama’s patriotism.
To make his point Sen. Obama also said: “We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. Since “patriotism has no party” we will challenge the old Republican “partisan playbook” to make Democrats unpatriotic. He also expressed support for the military and veterans several times. His aim was clear: to immunize himself from the vulnerability he created by claiming to be a “citizen of the world” and from something which had worked against Democrats in the past, i.e. that he is not a patriot. Most Americans value patriotism and expect their leaders to be patriots.
Two Meaning of Patriotism
Patriotism as presented by McCain and Obama can be read at:
http://www.parade.com/features/mccain-obama-patriotism McCain’s traditional patriotism is defined as demonstrated love, support, defense and sacrifice for one’s country and loyalty to that country. Obama’s postmodern patriotism is defined as the feelings, emotions and dreams someone has about others and his/her country. Traditional patriotism is an expression of moral certainty, while postmodern patriotism is an expression of relativism. Both versions claim they express love for past, present and future countrymen.
Traditional American patriotism claims there is right and wrong behavior, as defined by society, to demonstrate patriotism without regard to personal opinion. This means putting the country first, before ideology, factions, personal ambition, or anything else.
On the other hand, postmodernists present patriotism as being subjective and dependent on the life narrative of each individual. This means the memories, hopes, dreams and feelings of each person are stressed.
Most Americans and Europeans hold preconceptions that cause them to be emotionally committed to one of these two versions of patriotism. Humans usually base their views on feelings but represent our decisions as being rational. Sometimes this encompasses unconscious competence, so this method of reasoning is not always wrong, but it is the source of confirmation bias, denial, etc. Therefore, it is wise to consider the history of patriotism and the modern/postmodern paradigm before we consider the terminology needed to resolve this issue. Now is the time for all Americans to understand why patriotism is important.
History of Patriotism
Patriotism as a word gained its meaning as nation-states became the major actors in world affairs. Prior to the 18th century, loyalty was to the sovereign. With the rise of nation-states and the decline of the divine right of Kings it became necessary to shift loyalty from an individual to a nation, i.e. a collectivity of those with a common identity. Under “the divine right of Kings” people were expected to be loyal to a lord, count, king, and emperor who held secular authority and who was also often the custodian of sacred authority. In most of Europe this concept was abolished during the age of political revolution. However, the new nation-states needed some way to express loyalty to the new sovereign, i.e. the people as a whole (the nation). This task fell to patriotism.
The concept of patriotism thus performs an essential function. Today, anyone who rejects the nation-state will also reject the traditional definition of patriotism and will favor the postmodern version.
Patriot is a very old word; originally it meant “defender of the lands of our fathers”. Throughout history all successful groups have found ways to create group identity and shared civic virtues to bind its members together during competition with others. The concept of patriotism has been instrumental in creating and maintaining (1) loyalty within a nation, (2) respect for authority and the institutions of governance, and (3) a sense of reverence for a nation. All successful nations have valued their patriots, and shunned those deemed unpatriotic. Nevertheless, a backdrop of American Flags, red, white and blue bunting, stirring words, flag pins, thousands of cheering countrymen, and patriotic songs do not prove patriotism.
Patriotism is a question of loyalty. It replaced the loyalty to an individual sovereign (lord, king, emperor), derived from feudal law, with loyalty to the people (a nation)—the new sovereign. In our case “the good People of these Colonies” absolved “all Allegiance to the British Crown”.
In Europe the 68-generation has attempted to suppress any form of patriotism as integral nationalism: jingoistic chauvinism or the ethnic Darwinism of National Socialism. All expressions and symbols of the ‘outdated nation state’ are frowned upon and suppressed through social pressure, i.e. political correctness.
In Europe, and among postmodernists, sovereign nationalism is never considered.
Sovereign nationalism seeks the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Sovereign nationalism is an expression of the human desire for freedom and self-government. It places an emphasis on popular sovereignty, a constitution, decentralization, and civil rights—it is legitimized by a social contract between a people and their state. Sovereign nationalism is based on E Pluribus Unum—thus it is uniquely American and the reason traditional American patriotism differs from the politicized European versions, which are often closely interlinked with ethnicity or religion. The American version expresses pride in the founding documents of this country.
The Modern/Postmodern Paradigm
The distinction between traditional American patriotism and postmodern patriotism depends on motive. But it is impossible to know motives with certainty. Therefore, debates over which version of patriotism is best are of little benefit. However, it is necessay to recognize that voting for either McCain or Obama will have consequences other than their positions on issues. A vote for Obama will at least erode traditional patriotism and might even destroy ways to create and maintain (1) loyalty to our country, (2) respect for authority, and (3) reverence for our country.
Traditional American patriotism states what a person must do for his/her country to be considered a patriot. But postmodern thought rejects such objectivity. It is based on communication theory and focused on language, it stresses subjectivity and claims that objectivity is an illusion used by the powerful to manipulate people and oppress the disadvantaged. Postmodern patriotism is an expression of moral relativism. It is the love and feelings each person has for people and his/her country as a result of that individual’s life narrative. It considers opposition to your country’s policies and actions that you consider unjust to be the highest form of patriotism.
The social contract of a nation of free individuals with free will depends on patriots being loyal to, dedicated to, and willing to sacrifice for their nation. Of course, members of the loyal opposition love their country just as much as patriots. Members of the loyal opposition believe they are working for the common good just as much as patriots. They argue and work to change policies prior to decisions by those in authority, and then they either support the implementation of that policy or remain silent. Each citizen of the U.S.A. has the right to challenge constituted authority and to “alter or abolish” those exercising that authority, but the consequences of such action must also be considered. In order words, individuals have the right to dissent and to express their grievances. They might be right, brave, noble, wise, etc., but that does not make them patriots. It is important to preserve the concept of patriotism as a way to show and encourage loyalty to the sovereign of a nation-state (i.e. to the people as a whole) at the same time as the right of dissent is preserved by the loyal opposition.
On the other hand, postmodernists make dissent an aspect of patriotism so they will not be constrained in their efforts to advance personal, ideological, or factional interests. Partisan politicians who do not want their words and actions constrained by patriotism, and unintentionally give aid and comfort to enemies of their country, should be considered “useful idiots” regardless of their intentions or how much they claim to love their country.
If we want to preserve the United States of America as a successful nation agreement is needed on the following terminology:
Patriotism: actions to demonstrate love and loyalty to one’s country, support and defense of one’s country, and sacrifice for one’s country. Patriotism is a way to give a nation of free people with free will the ability to unify and sacrifice for the common good in a common cause.
Patriots: loyal and dedicated persons who not only love their country but also willingly work and sacrifice to advance the policies and interests of their country.
Loyal Opponents: those persons who love their country but oppose, and work to change, the policies of their country yet are careful not to give aid and comfort to the enemies of their country.
Traitors or Useful Idiots: those persons who give aid and comfort to the enemies of their country as a result of carelessness, naivety or idealism. The political correct will certainly object to the use of the term “traitor” and “idiot” in this context. For some traitor should be used only after someone is convicted of the crime of treason. Although traitor is a negative word it is an appropriate word since it refers to any person who betrays a person, cause, or trust. Since 1300 idiot has meant an ignorant person. However, for the past 100 years it has been used by some to refer to a person with severe mental retardation, thus in an effort to avoid being insensitive to mental illness the word idiot is considered off limits by the politically correct. Yet idiot is correctly used to refer to a foolish person. In this context Communists used it, from the 1930s until the end of the Cold War, to refer to those in a country whom they could use to advance communism. Therefore, both traitors and useful idiots are accurate and appropriate when used to refer to those who give aid and comfort to the enemies of their country as a result of carelessness, naivety or idealism.
Subversives or a Fifth Column: individuals or groups which hide their loyalty, convictions, and motives while they willingly work to advance the interests of a movement or faction seeking to weaken or destroy the country in which they live. “Fifth Column” was a term used during World War II for those living in a country that actively supported an enemy of that country. It was first used by Napoleon as he marched toward Vienna to refer to those in that city which he expected to raise up against their government. It was also used at the end of the Spanish Civil War as Nationalists forces moved on Madrid in the same context. It is a useful term, with negative connotations, which accurately describes those who are loyal to something other than their own country.
Without such agreement on terminology reasoned discussion of national interests is impossible. It will result in patrician bickering based on different political and philosophical points of view. With the acceptance of common terminology we can avoid some antagonism and separation as we seek unity in the pursuit of the common good in a common cause. Moral relativism must not prevent us from making judgments or from calling a spade a spade.
There will be those who object to the use of the words Traitors, Useful Idiots, Subversives, and Fifth Column. It is suggested they proposed better terms.
We must have the courage, and be polically incorrect enough, to agree on civic virtues. We must distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. We must be judgmental. We can no longer say everyone is a patriot just because they claim they love their country. Patriots are willing to work and sacrifice to advance the policies and interests of their country.
In addition to designating a new President, the November 2008 election will be a referendum on the meanings of patriotism which since the 1960s has been one aspect of the struggle between modernism and postmodernism.
Copyright © 2008
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