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Is Patriotism a Vice or Virtue?

Last updated on August 20, 2020

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

During World War II, the Allies and the Axis Powers fought battles throughout Europe. In one battle, the Germans overpowered and defeated the Allies. In the aftermath of the skirmish, the victors of the battle searched the desolate trenches for survivors.

A young German private stumbled upon a wounded Ally soldier. As per their “Take No Prisoners” policy, the private was required to shoot the wounded soldier. So the private raised his sidearm and aimed at the forehead of the unarmed trooper. Right before he pulled the trigger, the Ally soldier held up three fingers to make the Boy Scout sign and fainted from exhaustion. 

The Ally soldier later woke up in a hospital with a note on top of his bedside saying, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

Throughout our lives, we have numerous connections. Most of us are connected by family, friends, society, and religion. With these connections, comes an established trust and security. A person of faith can easily trust another person of faith because of their shared beliefs. A father trusts his son more than a random stranger. 

Colleges take letters of recommendation very seriously if they come from esteemed alumni. However, one of the strongest and most passionate connections is love for one’s country. When 9/11 occurred, Americans experienced a surge of patriotism because of their shared pain. 

Acts of reconciliation in both families and friends were established. Even so, the ethics of patriotism has been a recurring debate because of its historical ties. In the most extreme cases, Hitler exploited the German’s pride for their country when making the case for radical policies. 

Dictators, both communist and fascist, have appealed to a sense of nationalism when describing a revolution. Today, politicians often like to fire up a crowd by appealing to love for one’s country.

The concept of patriotism is widely misconceived. People believe patriotism is blind and dependent on where one is born. That simply because you were born and raised in a country means you have to love it. However, I disagree. 

Patriotism comes from a nation’s history, founding principles, and the status quo. Historically, immigrants across the globe saw America as their escape from poverty, their opportunity to start anew, the home of the brave, and the land of the free. America is seen as the leader of the free world because it provided humanitarian aid to crippling nations. American supply ships flew into war-torn Europe after WWII. 

That does not mean I ignore the horrors of America’s history. The injustice of slavery, the oppression of women, and the forced relocation of the Japanese were all heinous acts. However, I believe Americans can evolve in their relations with one another regardless of background. 

At the same time, I do not blindly follow the will of the government, but the contrary. The power of the government derives from the people. The Founding Fathers recognized that the greatest form of checks and balances is the will of the people. With that realization, they formed the Bill of Rights: the crux of every politician’s career. 

In our modern political sphere, politicians attempt to pass legislation to safeguard and enforce the Constitution. Evidently, the principles scribed two and a half centuries ago define the nation’s identity. In truth, patriotism is a virtue and nationalism is a vice. Nationalism is standing by your country no matter what whereas patriotism is standing by the principles represented in the country no matter what. I call myself a patriot because I stand by the timeless creed of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations

George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken

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