Progressive Patriotism an Oxymoron? I Don't Think So.

For this fourth of July weekend, I went on a rafting trip in Western Colorado with 21 friends. While feasting on turkey chorizo sausages at our campsite, I happened to introduce the ever-so-patriotic subject of the shortages of America's health care system. One woman told me about her uncle, who, while on his motorcycle, was hit by a drunk driver who had no insurance and had to have his leg amputated. When told by his insurance that a prosthetic that would allow him to continue his active lifestyle was considered elective and was not covered, he underwent training to make the prosthetics himself. He since has dedicated his work to providing prosthetic limbs to people whose insurance won't cover them, and fighting to get prosthetics covered by all health insurance carriers.

In a way, this man's actions represent a true form of patriotism; he saw a flaw in his country's health care system, questioned it, and launched a fight to fix it, bettering his country through his quest. It confuses and frustrates me that a common right-wing attack on progressives is to accuse us of being unpatriotic. Union Army General Carl Schurz 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." It takes a true sense of patriotism to strive to make your country the best it can be, and this includes possessing the strength to notice its shortcomings.

You probably already heard about the controversy surrounding jazz singer Rene Marie's decision to replace "The Star Spangled Banner" with "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (commonly referred to as "the Black National Anthem") at Denver's State of the City event last week. Marie has been called everything from "self-serving" to "manipulative" to "disrespectful," and, of course there was the predictable "unpatriotic."

Unpatriotic? Our country was born out of the religious persecution and political injustices of its mother country. Our founders took great pains to set up our government in such a way to prevent those atrocities from ever again being committed. The Civil War represented our country's commitment to the imperative that a human being cannot be owned, and the civil rights movement brought power to a nation of citizens standing up to racial discrimination. All of our nation's most momentous victories was born out of a dark period of injustice. Marie's declaration of national pride for our country's journey out of the dark and into the light is a symbol of true patriotism.

Who, after all, is more patriotic? The people who threw hissy-fits over Rene Marie singing Lift Every Voice and Sing? Or my friend's uncle?

I believe that this November gives us all an opportunity to be a part of a similar victory. We have the chance to take the past eight years of human rights violations, international crime, constitutional erosion and political corruption and stand up for change. We have a chance to ensure that no government will lead us into an dishonest, bloody and costly war, and we can demand that our government always puts the needs of its citizens first. Progressive Future is starting a movement to demand accountability from our leaders and an investment in our nation's future. You can join us, and express your patriotism, by signing our Priorities for a Progressive Future.

Tags: Independence Day, patriotism (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Re: Progressive Patriotism an Oxymoron? I Don't Th

If patriotism is based on fighting to protect your country, then my family has a better claim than many to being patriotic. My father won the bronze star during his service in the Pacific theater during WWII. Both of his brothers served with distinction in the same war. My mother's brother gave the ultimate sacrifice in Europe during the last days of the war. I volunteered for service during the Vietnam war. Is this all there is to patriotism?

I don't believe patriotism can be summed up so simply. I have far greater respect for my father and my uncles for the patriotism they showed to their communities by their selfless service after they returned from the war.

Each of these men served as volunteers for a multitude of causes during their lives. Each became a Scout leader. Each served on community boards. Each was involved in the PTA and other vital community organizations. I heard every one of them speak out against injustice and what they viewed as mistakes in judgment by our leaders. That is true patriotism.

We are all familiar with the more common quotations about patriotism. Ones like this one by Samuel Johnson - "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

Here are a few more quotations that aren't as well-known.

"True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else." Clarence Darrow

"Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."  Adlai E. Stevenson

"The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain" George McGovern

"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious." Oscar Wilde

by MS01 Indie 2008-07-09 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Progressive Patriotism an Oxymoron? I Don't Th

I'll add to yours 9since for some reason the site doesn't allow me to post non threaded comments). Usually those who scream the most about being patriotic are the ones who know the least about this country and what it was founded on.

by Dog Chains 2008-07-09 10:35AM | 0 recs

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