5 Historic Quotes About Patriotism That are Still Relevant
Some of the greatest minds of the past cautioned on the responsibilities of patriotism
Battle lines are being drawn in the sand as the November 2020 Presidential election nears. Republicans and Democrats have rarely been so idealistically and amicably distant. The concept of patriotism from both sides of the aisle has also come to be diametrically defined. At this critical time in American history, it’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on the words of notable figures from the past to see how they viewed it.
Here are five quotes to inspire thought on the true meaning of patriotism.
“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”
The idea that country must come before person or party is a powerful one that particularly resonates with the current political climate. Questioning and protesting that which is seen as wrong is an American right and a tenet of democracy. There will always be political leaders but if they are seen as infallible, democracy ceases to exist.
“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
Government is only as good as the results it achieves for the people. Positive support of one’s country is an admirable cause that is never completed. Politicians can receive credit but must also be assigned blame when their actions aren’t admirable or positive for the greater good.
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
When someone attaches themselves as a condition of patriotism, they are asserting that they are not just equal to the cause, they are superior. Patriotism is a powerful rallying cry that can be used for good and bad, with an unfortunate consequence being how easy it can be used to manipulate.
“In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.”
American patriotism is such a strong ideal for so many people that it lends credibility by mere association. It’s so powerful that the simple label often lifts the subject to being above reproach. Ironically, it was a strong sense of wariness and accountability that so strongly influenced the founding of this country.
“So, let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look over not only ourselves, but each other.”
The temptation is strong to apply patriotism on an individual level. However, to truly fulfill a patriotic duty is to look out for others; perhaps even in situations where their best interest may be different than your own.
Much like respect, patriotism is something that should be earned and not demanded. Losing the ability to critique and pursue better is antithetical to what this country is about; now and in the centuries since its founding. Maintaining an open and discerning mind and being ever vigilant is something our brightest minds of the past have reminded us of regularly when it comes to being curators of this country. Now, more than ever, their wise words bare heeding as we navigate the rocky American political landscape.