America’s True Patriots
America’s True Patriots by Brian Maher for Daily Reckoning
Here is the trouble with America’s jingos, warhawks, drum-beaters, glory hounds and idealists:
They are not patriotic.
Come again, you say?
Do they not cry tears red, white and blue?
Do they not howl about American “greatness”… American “exceptionalism”… the shining city atop the hill?
That and more they do, yes.
Yet they are not patriotic.
That is the surprising case we haul before the jury today.
Yes, we are stepping away from our normal beat… and reflecting upon the virtue of patriotism.
This at a time when war shouts are rising against Iran, Venezuela, Russia — or whichever hellcat presently menaces the happiness of the United States.
(We first bow before the shade of late writer Joseph Sobran, upon whose insights we rely today.)
Country or Empire
Famed English writer G.K. Chesterton once denounced Rudyard Kipling’s “lack of patriotism.”
Lack of patriotism?
Kipling was chief rah-rah man for the British Empire, its loudest bugler.
English civilization overtopped all rival powers, he bellowed — as Everest overtops all rival peaks.
And as it should… Great Britain gave the law in all four corners of Earth.
From Kipling’s story Regulus, citing Virgil’s Aeneid:
“Roman! let this be your care, this your art; to rule over the nations and impose the ways
Substitute Britain for Rome and you have Kipling.
Why then did Chesterton deny his patriotism?
The reason is subtle. Yet vital.
“He Admires England, but He Does Not Love Her”
Chesterton argued that Kipling admired England because of her power. He did not love her for who she was:
He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.
In contrast, Chesterton loved England as England — its customs, its eccentricities, its people — even its food.
A man loves his mother.
It is a wordless love, wide and deep.
He requires no reason. He need offer no explanation.
And as he loves his mother… so he loves his country.
His country is simply his country — be it China, Russia, Chile, Romania.
And so it is worthy of his love.
Of course Chesterton was right. You love your country as you love your mother — simply because it is yours, not because of its superiority to others, particularly superiority of power.
A Spacious Patriotism
Does the other fellow believe his own mother towers 900 feet over all others?
Well, friends, maybe he does.
But that in no way irritates, annoys or undoes the genuine patriot.
No harm flows from it. After all…
Adults allow children to cherish the fiction that reindeer fly and round men descend chimney chutes.
A man allows his wife to cherish the fiction that she is a superior cook and automobile driver… as she allows her husband to cherish the fiction that he is a skillful and formidable lover.
These are harmless fictions conducive to the domestic peace and happiness.
In that spirit, the patriot’s attitude toward foreigners is relaxed. It is accommodative. And spacious.
But a Kipling does not love his country as a man loves his mother.
His country must show all others its dust. It must outrace them all… else he feels diminished.