Editorial: Recapturing the meaning of patriotism
In Tuesday’s installment of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly invited fellow Fox pundit Charles Krauthammer onto the show to discuss the dismal state of patriotism in America.
O’Reilly cited a recent Pew poll that asked approximately 10,000 adults whether they “often feel proud to be an American.” Fifty-six percent said they do, while 44 percent said they do not.
When O’Reilly asked Krauthammer whether he was surprised by that second number, Krauthammer said, “No, not really.”
“The reason is,” Krauthammer said, “that if you break it down by ideology or party, it’s mostly Democrats and liberals. For conservatives, the numbers are quite high on the patriotism, the pride, the exceptionalism.”
The problem is that Krauthammer and O’Reilly were confused. They were not talking about patriotism at all. They were talking about supernationalism.
A patriot is devoted to America, but not with eyes closed. If you vote, you are patriotic. If you volunteer to help your community, you are patriotic. If you exercise your right to peacefully disagree with your government, you are patriotic. If you want the troops to come home so no more men and women die in a questionable war, you are patriotic. Inaction and ambivalence are characteristics of the unpatriotic.
Political leaders do not define America. They are merely the guides who try to bring the nation closer to the true intent of the Founding Fathers.
Along the way, America has stumbled often and continues to do so, and sometimes the guides lose sight of the destination. The nation’s patriots try to correct the course as they see it by casting ballots; political leaders lend a hand by providing a voice for their constituents. That is democracy. That is patriotism.
Pride in America is about belief in the destination, and should not ebb and flow depending on who is leading the way.
In the meantime, O’Reilly and Krauthammer would be wise to reassess the brand of patriotism they revere.
In December 1941, E.B. White wrote: “The passionate love of Americans for their America will have a lot to do with winning the war. It is an odd thing though; the very patriotism on which we now rely is the thing that must eventually be in part relinquished if the world is ever to find a lasting peace and an end to these butcheries.”
That, unfortunately, is what O’Reilly, Krauthammer and other supernationalists fail to understand.