The Essence of True Patriotism

Is THIS Patriotism???
After having served in the military in a war that I think we shouldn't have been involved in, it seems to me that patriotism in the United States has become synonymous with a strong military. This bothers me.  Patriotism is not about empire.  Although patriotism is about love of country, it does not think it's better than someone else. Although it possesses national pride, it recognizes and rectifies national faults. True patriotism is not ethnocentric; rather, it welcomes and celebrates all nations and cultures. It does not dominate. Instead, it sets an example of goodness that is worthy of emulation.
Are you proud of your country?  You should be--regardless of whether you live in America or any other place. That is part of patriotism. Every nation is good in some way. Do you think that your country is perfect--that it's never committed any wrongs? I hope you don't. Every nation has committed wrongs--against other nations, and in many cases against its own people--America included.

A friend of  mine gave an excellent talk in our LDS Sacrament meeting today, which, I told him after the meeting, was about that part of patriotism that Americans seem reluctant to talk about. Rather than bombs bursting in the air over foreign nations around the globe, the essence of true patriotism is a love and respect for all mankind.

True patriotism includes, when necessary, shame for national mistakes, as well as a willingness not to make those mistakes again. America has committed its share of mistakes. All of us won't always agree exactly on what those mistakes are, but I think, if we are introspective enough, we can find a core of historical occurrences that Americans should not be proud of.  Here are a few of them that come to my mind.
  • Slavery - This diabolical institution demeaned the black race to such an extent that some people today still think that blacks are inferior to whites. This is untrue. 
  • Treatment of Native Americans - The American Indians were removed from lands they rightfully possessed because the white man thought that he was morally superior. This is untrue.
  • Lust for Empire - The takeovers of places such as Hawaii, the Philippines, and various large tracts of land in South America were effected at the behest of corporate interests looking for avenues to enrich themselves on the surplus product of their labors. This is immoral.
  • Support of Dictators - America supports Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Egypt does not have free elections. America supports the Saudi oligarchy, because they have lots of oil. At one time we supported Saddam Hussein against Iran. People the world over wonder why, if liberty and honor is good enough for Americans, why can't they have liberty and honor, too? American foreign policy in this regard is immoral.
I still think that the United States is the greatest, most benevolent country in the history of the world. But patriotism does not flatter itself when it tries to ignore its mistakes.  Patriotism, which is a strength, becomes a weakness when patriots become nationalists.  True patriots respect other peoples, their languages, and their cultures. False patriotism (or nationalism) beats the drums of war. False patriotism thinks that it's "torture" when "they" do it to "us" but not when we do it to them.

Spencer W. Kimball warned in 1976 about such faux patriotism.
We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel -- ships, planes, missiles, fortifications -- and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism...
Kimball reminds us that something is lacking if we constantly turn to militancy and empire as a supposed solution to our problems:
We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us -- and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Nephi 1:7) -- or he will fight our battles for us
True patriotism is humble. It doesn't puff itself up into thinking that it is better than others. It doesn't dominate militarily. Rather it sets an example of liberty and charity. Perhaps most of all, true patriotism admits its mistakes and vows to do better.

True patriotism knows that, as great as America may be, we can do better.


  1. Love. This. Post. Thank you!!! I should've read this before I commented on your most recent post, LOL...

    I hesitate to even tie the word "proud" with patriotism, for the very reasons you set out here; but being grateful for and loving one's homeland is great, and like you said - true patriotism admits its mistakes and vows to do better. (Real repentance vs. continual, backward-looking browbeating... :) )

  2. Marty Erickson7/22/2010 10:07:00 PM

    Powerful comments Frank. I like your own unique take and approach on this. I'll have to read your blog more often.


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