Let's Be Careful When Using the Word 'Patriotism'


patriotismWe all do not agree on its meaning

by Tom Barnes, Staff Writer 

Veterans see themselves as the very emodiment of patriotism, the very core of a nation’s definition of that word. But do you know that not everyone has a hard right view of that word? Some very famous and magnificent people who have given much to their countries have been very afraid of that word, probably because it very easily slides into jingoism with very little provocation.

Patriotism is a loaded word. It can blow up in your face if you are not careful and many people realized that. Here are some quotations to ponder relative to different views on patriotism.

Webster’s Dictionary lists the definition of patriotism as "love of one’s country". Veterans generally speaking are very patriotic people. They have already shown that through their service to country. But does that mean that patriotism is by definition a word defined by extreme political views? Let’s walk in that country for a while.


Adlai Stevenson who ran for President and represented us at the United Nations said: "What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility … a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."

Barbara Ehrenreich, an American feminist and political activist said: "No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots."

Carl Schurz, an American born in Germany and active in the German uprisings of 1848-1849, that were part of the general overall awakening in Europe of 1848, said: "The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country — when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."

Edward Abbey, an American writer who was a pioneer American environmentalist said, "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."

George Bernard Shaw a Nobel Prize Laureate and great Irish author said, "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." He also said at another occasion, ""Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy". He had another famous quote about patriotism, he said on yet another occasion, "Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."

Oscar Wilde, Irish Poet and wildman wrote, "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."

Howard Zinn, World War II Army Air Force navigator (B-24s) and history professor said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

Malcolm X, Black Militant leader, and civil rights agitator said, "You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it."

Samuel Johnson, English poet and writer (1709-1784) said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

General George Patton was a little more pragmatic in his view of patriotism. He told his young officers, ""If you can’t get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country?"

G.K. Chesterton, a famous British author once said, ""My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."

Bertrand Russell, the famous writer once said, "Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons."

Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s courageous leader in World War II said, "When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."

Let’s be careful when we constantly harp on patriotism in our cajoling of others who we deem lacking in that regard. We have to understand, everyone is not a person who sees patriotism as sprouting out of the barrel of an automatic weapon.

Just something to think about.



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