July 4, 2018


What It Means To Love Our Country (Kian Hudson, July 3rd, 2018, Public Discourse)

A perusal of the The Federalist might give an interested Frenchman an understanding of our governmental institutions. But true affection for our Constitution can come only from living under the government it structures, participating in the politics it makes possible, and exercising the freedoms it secures. In a word, we love our country because she is, in some important sense, ours. 

But our love for America should not be limited to this. Patriotic affection ought to elicit a further desire to protect and promote America's goodness. Americans today are the beneficiaries of those who pledged their lives and sacred honor to form this country, those who spent their lives in the struggle to keep it, and those who have worked tirelessly to shape it into a more perfect union. We have many blessings to be grateful for, and the appropriate product of our gratitude is a desire to promote these blessings. 

This desire to protect and promote our country's goodness is properly called patriotism, but it is patriotism of a particular kind. When our country struggles or our government errs, patriotism arouses us to safeguard the things we love. Our love for our country is originally founded on all the countless lovely things about her. But our love for America does not rest on its remaining lovely. If it did, it would be no love at all. Such a false patriotism is, as C.S. Lewis once put it, "like loving your children only if they're good, your wife only while she keeps her looks, your husband only so long as he is famous and successful."  

Because true patriotism appreciates America's charms but refuses to esteem her faults, it does not cause us to blindly endorse everything our country is and has been. It will not even permit us to be unmoved by our country's sins. We promote our country's goodness both by celebrating its virtues and by identifying--and remedying--its vices. This patriotism will not allow us to mark as noble what is ignoble. It compels us to cherish those goods that ought to be cherished and to remedy those evils that ought to be remedied.   

This patriotism thus aims to protect and promote America's goodness, not her government. It entails no particular commitment to, or satisfaction with, the ruling authority of the state. On the contrary, it will sometimes require criticizing our government when it fails to promote and protect what is good about America. We ought to have affection for the justice and peace that our government secures, and our love for our country ought to compel us to promote these blessings--including by holding our government to account. An unpatriotic heart is thus characterized not by agitation, but by apathy. 

Posted by at July 4, 2018 6:13 AM