Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dissent is Constructive Patriotism

Patriotism can shift with time | | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, FL
"Michael D. Martinez, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, said there are several types of patriotism, some which work together and depend upon each other, others which are in direct conflict with each other.

Symbolic patriotism will be on display in parades and backyards throughout the country today as Americans fly the flag, buy red, white and blue balloons and eat blueberry pie over flag-themed tablecloths.

There's also national identity, or the kind of patriotism that comes with defining oneself by one's American citizenship.

Though these two forms of patriotism run the risk of being shallow, Martinez said flying the flag and feeling proud to be an American can actually lead to deeper forms of patriotism.

"There is evidence that the patriotism that's related to national identity is actually correlated with things like public involvement," Martinez said.

Then, Martinez said, there's constructive patriotism and uncritical patriotism, which by definition are at odds.

Constructive patriots are those who cast a critical eye toward the government by voicing their dissent with an aim to make the country better.

Scott Camil, a Vietnam veteran and head of the Alachua County chapter of Veterans for Peace, falls into this group. He said the truest form of patriotism is the defense of the Constitution, whether that's as a service member in a time of war or on a street corner protesting government policy.

"I'm willing to bet all of those Nazis who ran concentration camps were patriotic," Camil said. "And the Japanese who bombed us in Pearl Harbor, I'm sure they were patriotic, too. To me, patriotism has to stand for something more than just loving your country. The Constitution is what makes us different and special, and gives us a really good reason to love our country. That's where my loyalty lies."

Camil said symbolic patriotism can be dangerous, depending on what's behind it.

"The flag is used to sell cars and to sell politicians," Camil said. "It is made into clothes. I don't think generally the flag is treated with the respect it should be. And I personally think that the government uses both the symbol of the troops and the symbol of the flag to wrap its policies in, which makes questioning those policies harder."

Scott has an excellent analysis here of the view many in VFP have about patriotism and Dr Martinez throws a clearer light on the semantics of what can be a loaded term.

Mary Bahr

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