Patriotism in the New Era of Nationalism

An informal treatise on being an American Patriot

We only celebrate ourselves as “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” when it is convenient or impossible to ignore. During holidays or in times of national crisis. Then, the day after such events, our collective sense of belonging in the same tribe quickly goes away. We replace our sense of being Americans with our solemn duty to the tenets of capitalism. And that leads to a country of disconnected people.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. So let’s reflect on where we came from, how we got here, who we are, and where we go from here.

Where we came from

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — The Declaration of Independence

We are a tribe born out of a revolution that declared it’s independence 243 years ago, on July 4, 1776. We objected to the establishment of Tyranny and collectively consented to be governed of, by, and for the people (ourselves).

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We call those who fought for independence long ago, “Patriots”, Rebels, and Revolutionaries. Those early colonists of the Thirteen Colonies who bravely rejected British rule during the American Revolution declared the United States of America an independent nation. Being a rebel, a revolutionary, and yes, a “patriot” is in our blood. But being a patriot does not mean the same thing as being a nationalist. Far from it.

America was born out of a collective sense of freedom and self-governance. Being a patriot means to recognize the individual and collective rights of people who are what makes up America.

Let’s hear from John Cena on what being a Patriot means.

How we got here

“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” — Spuriously attributed to Thomas Jefferson

We got here in fits and starts. We stumbled and fell, often.

As we learn more about our own history, much of which has been carefully ignored, we find some hard truths we must face. The US has a lot of things to be ashamed of in our history. We made a lot of mistakes, many were horrific examples of cruelty and injustice. Our history makes up who we are today, and sadly, we have learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

Recent events have brought up an old misguided theory that the USA is a “white nation”. I’m not sure where that simpleton notion comes from, but it could be due to some very significant misunderstandings of history, or just wishful thinking by ignorant people. Perhaps we should dispel some common misconceptions about the United States to remedy this situation.

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Unite the Right march on the University of Virginia campus. Photograph: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

English is NOT the official language of the United States. In fact, nearly all the founding fathers spoke 2–3 languages in addition to English. Most people here speak English, but the Constitution applies to all people, regardless of language, race, nationality, gender, religion, born here or not.

Although most of the founding fathers were born in the 13 Colonies, 9 were from England, Ireland, West Indies, and Scotland. The concept of forming a country on the principle of it being limited to white people isn’t part of the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution. Thus, treating people who are of a different nationality is unpatriotic.

America is made up of people from everywhere, and they speak every language on the planet. Therefore, it is unpatriotic to disparage or despise people who don’t sound like you, look like you, or act like you. To be a patriotic American is to embrace multiculturalism and diversity regardless of your skin color or nationality.

We had a lot of rough starts fine-tuning this great experiment called the United States. We are well on the road to realizing that although we are One Nation, we are Indivisible from each other as Americans from all walks of life.

America is, therefore, not a “white nation” but a melting pot of the world’s people.

We arrived at where we are today on the backs of hardworking Americans and because of the bravery and innovations of our country’s best and brightest women and men. We are not the most prosperous country because of some economic theory. Sweat, tears, and ingenuity made America what it is today. We the people are still working to improve the country and do right by our wrongs. Our government, well, not so much. But make no mistake… we got here by being in the same tribe most of the time.

Diversity saved us from being boring and made life interesting and vibrant. As the United States evolved we opened our shores and borders to everyone. The country prospered as a direct result.

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“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— Emma Lazarus, part of the ‘The New Colossus’ poem

It is very patriotic to understand that America, and we Americans, are diverse for good reasons and that it doesn’t matter where we came from so much as where we are going together.

Who we are

Who we are now is somewhat of a mystery. Because almost anyone can tell you who they are, but to describe who we are collectively is much more difficult.

We are normal of course. But as Ellen Goodman said,

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”

We are divided. We’ve long known that the practice of division makes a country, and it’s people, easy to conquer. And we are a conquered people despite that few dare to talk about it. We are so divided that we have difficulty putting a finger on who, why and how we’ve been conquered. We are still Americans, we just don’t realize that the people, all of us, are far more important than what has been dividing us for many decades. We are divided by greed-based economics. We are divided by politics and parties that are controlled by corporate interests. Corporations conquered us.

We are greedy. Many people would say that greed and making money is the American Way and that it’s only natural for people to strive to get rich. I reject that notion on the grounds that the forces of nature don’t work that way, and because in our Pursuit of Happiness we discovered that money doesn’t create happiness. We have learned a lot of hard lessons over the last couple hundred years; Life and Liberty depend upon helping others, not taking advantage of them. The quest for money through greedy pursuits does not make America great. People do. And yet, we are enslaved to an economy.

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We are egotistical. Most people think the USA is the greatest country in the world. I got news for you! America is not the greatest country in the world. In fact, many travelers are often asked, “where are you from?” These days many Americans abroad reply, “Canada” just to avoid the laughter or uncomfortable questions about our president, imperialism, wars, etc. We’re getting much better at not being a rude American overseas, but we’ve still got a long way to go. But if you ask a lot of people they’ll boast about how great America is due to how much wealth or “stuff” we have. Or they’ll explain how low unemployment and Wall Street somehow tell the story of the greatest economy in the world. They’re completely and utterly mistaken, but their egos will not budge from their claims of American Exceptionalism.

We are disconnected. Because we have reached peak prosperity, Americans work most of the time and have little time to enjoy life with each other. We are constantly pulled in the direction of something else and glued to technology. Most people have lived next door to their neighbors for many years and have not had more than 15 minutes of dialog with them. Instead, our heads hang low staring into our devices, or eyes on the road to and from workplaces. When you truly take a break from technology and your work, you will find yourself longing for connectivity and you’ll worry about losing your job if you don’t get back soon. We are disconnected from family, friends, reality, and connected to social media, Netflix, Amazon, etc.

We are racist. I know — that’s a hard one to face for most Americans. We’re also sexist, ageist, and homophobic. Many Americans are privileged too. We live in a country that’s allowed injustice in our justice department and permitted a police state that oppresses the public. The effects of injustice in America have disproportionately harmed minorities. The current state of the racial tension in this country is scary. Being divided and having a growing racist nationalist movement is a symptom of the potential downfall of the United States. The country is brimming with hate, fear, and injustice.

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We are working on these critically important realities. But we must come to grips that we have a long way to go and we don’t have much time left.

But we are diverse and unique. We are innovators and creators. We are mothers and fathers; friends, families, and generations of loving people. We are artists, engineers, scientists, authors, teachers, soldiers, leaders, farmers, inventors, conservationists, firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors, dentists, musicians, laborers, immigrants, politicians, lawyers, and so much more. We are fairly hopeful and mostly patient, for now.

It is very important to note that our Founding Fathers, who wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the Framers of the Constitution (1787), were protestors, activists, and environmentalists. That’s why today, despite what some people claim, protestors, activists, and environmentalists are patriots to the core! Period. Full Stop! Let that sink in.

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But we are NOT our government. Although Abraham Lincoln said we have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, we strayed far from that long ago and allowed corporations to influence every aspect of our government and our laws. We have to remedy that soon.

Today, we are living in a country that is, in every practical sense, an oligarchy that pretends to be a republic that practices democracy, with a reluctant socialist safety net, controlled by a corporatocracy that maintains economic slavery for those who can’t afford to avoid it. And anyone or anything that promotes or supports that reality is unpatriotic.

It’s not patriotic to “make America great again” by merely using that as a slogan, but undermining nearly everything that patriots stand for.

“What makes America Great, has never been it’s perfection, but the belief that it could be made better.” — Barack Obama, June 30, 2008, Independence, MO

Where we go from here

First, we realize the road ahead isn’t going to be easy.

The agendas of the two-party system have failed to realize democracy. The platforms that they claim to represent have not attempted to achieve or accomplish the goals the people want or need, but they have lined the pockets of corporations for decades with the fruits of our labor.

Our representatives in Congress represent corporate interests more than the interests of the people who supposedly elected them. This has led to unfavorable conditions in America to put it lightly. Patriots know this!

Our current president and his administration have become the poster-children of hate, fear, and division in America. Half of the US Population thinks Republicans are uneducated imbeciles who are unpatriotic. And there is a lot of evidence to back that up. The other half of the country thinks we should prevent “libtards” from voting, keep Democrats from getting any social services or public education, would rather shoot Mexicans as they approach our Southern Border to “prevent an invasion”, they want to drill for oil and pipe it across the country over delicate streams and waterways, demand no regulations for polluting corporations, and advocate for national laws that take away individual freedoms.

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So we are indeed in bad shape — divided and politically polarized. But we are all Americans of the same tribe. One way or the other we are going to have to come together someday.

We are facing significant challenges, especially a looming climate crisis. We also have to face who we are now so that we can start implementing progressive changes that improve our country, and actually make America a better place for everyone. That’s a huge challenge, but we can’t afford to waste time debating the science or what “socialism” means. We need to address the climate crisis now!

Remember, to be an environmentalist is patriotic.

Because we failed to prevent the rise of corporate influence long ago, we must hold our government accountable and eliminate corporate control asap! The climate crisis is tied to our economic problems. The solution is to demand reforms and progress immediately on all fronts: politically, environmentally, and economically. We simply do not have any time left, and we can no longer afford to keep funneling most of the world’s wealth into the pockets of wealthy corporations. We the people must rise up and stop corporate control of our country!

Remember, to be a protestor is patriotic.

We have many issues facing the United States including, wealth inequality, poverty, racism, injustice, lack of affordable healthcare, high cost of living, lack of affordable housing, and so much more.

Remember, to be an activist is patriotic.

America, we can do better. As we pause to remember who we are, where we came from, and how we got here, let us endeavor to be a better country; to stay true to our commitments as a nation, and progress towards Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, together as one tribe. All of us patriots!

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” — Mark Twain

I’ll leave you with this essay by Author Sebastian Junger.

Seeker of people & experiences that warm your heart, wake your mind, and move your spirit; frequent finder of four-leaf clovers

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