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Be Proud, Modern Patriots!
The conservatives tout that they are patriotic because they embrace and hold dear the traditions of the founding people of America. The liberals argue that they are truly the patriots because they dare to question the status quo of the modern world. Wither conservative or liberal it seems that everyone is concentrating on a defining characteristic that does not define patriotism but instead defines nationalism, or more accurately a characteristic that defines collectivism.
When questioning or asserting their "patriotism," conservatives and liberals seem to be talking about whether they are in favor of or standing in opposition to the state. If you fought in a war to protect the state, no matter how unjust the war, then you are "patriotic" in the eyes of the conservatives. If you spoke out against the actions of the state, no matter how just the state, then you are "patriotic" in the eyes of the liberals. In either case to be "patriotic" seems to mean unthinking compliance to the ideology of the group. However, these are not the characteristics of a patriot—they are undeniable characteristics of a collectivist!
A patriot is defined* by a love of country, especially for popular liberty. Superficially we may confuse patriotism and collectivism as being the love of a group but that is not the essence of the definition. A patriot’s love for country, unlike the collectivist's love for the group, is a love based upon a reason that does not exist for the collectivist—popular liberty, or freedom for all. Collectivists cannot be patriots because their love for the group is without reason. The collectivist's concern is for his primary end, the will and welfare of the group, which he intends to accomplish without concern for the justness of the means. The patriot's concern is for popular liberty, which can only be maintained through reason where the means must justify the ends.
In practice anyone can accomplish patriotic acts, but a true patriot must be judged on the consistency of these patriotic acts. A true patriot must be true to popular liberty in all cases, which means that a true patriot must be true to the principles that allow for popular liberty and the foundation those principles rest upon, flagrant individualism. Thus, patriotism does not demand a love for the state but a love and loyalty to that which makes legitimate government possible—freedom and the rights of man.
Yet, why should we be concerned about patriotism at all? Because patriotism is the word that defines our political passion as it defined the passions of those patriots who came before us. We stand on the walls of that same fortress where Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and countless others stood vigil in their lifetimes. We stand vigil atop the walls of the Fortress Liberty as willing defenders of freedom—some of us in the intellectual war for men’s minds, some of us in the physical wars to defend men’s lives, some virtuously in both theatres. But in the end we individualists are all true patriots and it would be a battle needlessly lost to abandon this appellation of virtue to the collectivist. Be proud and take up your title, modern patriots!
*Definition from Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Desk Dictionary 1985 Ed.
Patriot: One who loves his country and zealously guards its welfare esp. a defender of popular liberty.
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