Editorial: A new kind of American patriotism

Friday, June 30, 2017

‘Patriotism” means a love for and devotion to one’s country. The definition is simple enough, and maybe that’s the problem. It just doesn’t do justice to such a complicated word.

For some, being a patriot might mean supporting the troops, past and present, and believing with all their heart that America is the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

For others, it might mean dissent and taking to the streets in protest when government betrays the people.

But patriotism, like so many other -isms, is highly susceptible to corruption. There are people in this country who believe that it was an act of patriotism for Congress to undermine the Obama administration at every turn. There are people in this country who believe that it is patriotic to form an inflexible “resistance” against the Trump administration. Each of those scenarios represents disengagement from the process in favor of opposition for the sake of opposition.

Neither seems very patriotic, so maybe it’s time for a new kind of patriotism.

As with any new endeavor, truth is an excellent place to start. The traditional American news media and the new American news media of websites and blogs have too often failed the American people. Bad journalism that distorts more than it informs isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is adding a highly toxic element to the natural divide between left and right. Partisans posing as journalists have only made things worse.

The love and devotion at the heart of patriotism requires truth, and that has to begin with the individual. So find and support the good journalism – there’s a lot of it – and welcome every opportunity to read thoughtful articles, essays and books that challenge your world view. There is nothing to be learned by seeking confirmation of what you already believe. If in the process you find that a writer, pundit or politician has distorted the truth, say so and punctuate it with hard facts. To use the term “fake news” as a standalone, catch-all rebuttal is meaningless. Unearth the lie, surround it with truth and raise it up.

A new kind of patriotism also requires an elevation of the national debate, and that in turn requires the personal development of individuals. In that spirit, try not to make assumptions about the character of people with whom you disagree and don’t take it as an insult when somebody challenges your opinions. Every person is much, much more than the sum of their political beliefs. There are some smart, funny, compassionate Republicans here in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Sometimes their closest friends are smart, funny, compassionate Democrats with whom they debate foreign and domestic policy free of rage, the same way you might discuss families or hobbies with your friends. If you assume that everyone who is opposed to you politically is your enemy and that every debate has to be a winner-take-all confrontation between good and evil, right and wrong, you are part of the problem and can’t be part of the solution unless you change.

Fourth of July is almost upon us. As you look around at the various ways people celebrate Independence Day – picnics, parades, family reunions, fireworks and even political rallies – take it all in. This big land, home to more than 320 million diverse individuals, is approaching the quarter-millennium mark. And it’s not male or female, Democrat or Republican, black or white, gay or straight that got America this far. It’s the people, collectively. The people are responsible for the natural, moderating tension between conservatism and progressivism – a tension that bolsters the republic even as it seems to threaten its destruction.

We may question the actions of government, but we will never lose faith in the people. When we think of a new kind of patriotism, we think of them. All of them, each and every thread of this beautiful American tapestry.