Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Patriotism need not be blind

Patriotism is broadly defined as one’s love and devotion to their country. The political arena magnifies charges of a candidate as either being patriotic or the converse. Two days before the 2008 presidential election John McCain is attempting to paint Barack Obama as less than patriotic. This charge is levied because of Obama’s recent comment about feeling his faith in America had been vindicated after his primary win in Iowa.

McCain’s point is that a true patriot never questions his country. His speeches are rife with overt and subliminal messages about his absolute devotion to his country. This begins to look like blind patriotism. Given the unequivocal nature of blind adherence we can begin to consider some shortcomings.

Let’s liken the country to our family. Typically, being proud and devoted to your family and children might appear admirable. Loyalty has its virtue. But a lack of critical assessment might enable some very problematic concerns. If we defended our children at all costs, against all charges, we’d be enabling them. If there were complaints from their friends, their teachers or others and we blindly defended them against all charges what result might that have upon them?

From my experience, a very negative effect. We learn and grow form accepting and looking at constructive criticism. This in turn may lead to valuable self-reflection. We might well consider that children who are defended at all costs–in the spirit of familial patriotism–would be severely limited in their progression toward healthy adulthood.

Might not the same happen with blind patriotism? Ironically, defending our country against reasonable self critique will render us a weakened, less vital nation. If our national psyche is so defended as not to be evaluative, then are we any different than an individual who is highly defended? When a person, a family or a nation turns inward, in a self-protecting manner, it cease to evolve and accommodate the vicissitudes of change.

To battle for the presidency around issues of who is more patriotic is not only a scurrilous distraction, it is short sighted and infantile. Believing that our country can never be imperfect, let alone wrong is frankly a state of pathological denial. Which is whay most of the world is hoping for an Obama victory. Patriotism nears its highest value when it is generative, permitting honest evaluation, not blinded to its rightness.

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