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The observance in the past few days of Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day led Red Room to wonder about patriotism. (We note that several other countries celebrate independence or national days this week, including Venezuela, Malawi, Comoros, and Lithuania). In Enlightenment-era France, patriotism simply signified loyalty to the state as opposed to the church. These days, even constructive critics of government are accused of being unpatriotic by "love it or leave it" types. This week, please post a Red Room blog entry on the subject of patriotism. (Please don't post your entry in the comments section below, but please do tag your entry patriotism blog.)

To spark your imagination, browse more than fifty books about political criticism, an act that is often born out of love of country so strong that one must write about it. Whether you agree with Samuel Johnson that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel" or would stand with Nathan Hale, whose only regret was having but one life to lose for his country, please blog about patriotism this week.

A few featured bloggers will receive books by Red Room authors:

In Of Thee I Sing (2010, Knopf Books for Young Readers), a "tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama (with illustrator Loren Long) has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America's children."

Susan Griffin asks "what does it mean to be a citizen of the United States in her 2008 book Wrestling With the Angel of Democracy (Shambhala Publishers). Her "provocative investigation of that question takes us from the Declaration of Independence to the Iraq War, with many stops in between."

Griffin and Karin Lofthus Carrington take the question global as they co-edit Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World, (2011, University of California Press), an "inspired collection offers a new paradigm for moving the world beyond violence as the first, and often only, response to violence." In it, "a diverse array of contributors--writers, healers, spiritual and political leaders, scientists, and activists, including Desmond Tutu, Huston Smith, Riane Eisler, Daniel Ellsberg, Amos Oz, Fatema Mernissi, Fritjov Capra, George Lakoff, Mahmoud Darwish, Terry Tempest Williams, and Jack Kornfield--considers how we might transform the conditions that produce terrorist acts and bring true healing to the victims of these acts."

In his neighborhood, racial, and economic activism, Ishmael Reed showed the commitment to community that some equate with patriotism, even while criticizing the inequities that have so often characterized the United States. His new novel Juice! (2011, Dalkey Archive Press) is "a lament for the death of print media, the growth of the corporation, and the process of growing old, Juice! serves as a comi-tragedy, chronicling the increased anxieties of 'post-race' America."

Obama Griffin Reed covers

So post a blog entry today about Red Room's topic of the week


For help on how to blog, please see the directions here. We'll choose one of these blog posts to be featured on Red Room's homepage next week. Post your entry by Friday at 10:30 a.m. PDT (GMT-08:00) for consideration, and be sure to tag it with the keyword term patriotism blog in the Blog Keyword Tags field so we can find it. (Please don't forget the exact tag. For more information about tags, click here.) 

And don't forget to check our most recent blog topic of the week, favorite work of LGBT literature. From an erudite appreciation of Walt Whitman’s poet-politics to a sharp critique of gay and lesbian stories’ lack of a happy ending, bloggers explained what's great about the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books, short stories, plays, and screenplays.

Thanks as always for blogging!

Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room

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Patriotism is about allegiance to a agreed upon set of principles, with variance always being a contested factor as to the agreement itself. Patriotism is but another faith-based concept, like justice; it is an endless search inasmuch as it is nonexistent, since its agreement is devoid of reality except in the minds of those seeking that which can never be completely agreed upon. In short, it is an illusion.

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What is Patriotism?

Mel Hoke
Patriotism is neither xenophobic hogwash nor a mere civic commitment to one's community (as in "community organizer"). It is particularly insulting to true or genuine patriotism to taint it with the obvious negative connotations of any phobia. and to re-define patriotism reductively as a garden variety of community service is Orwellian newspeak in its purest form. Patriotism is NOT a fear or hatred of anything but rather an unreserved love of and loyalty to the highest and most sacred values/ideals of one's group (as in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness") and a total willingness to sacrifice everything to preserve them. Modernist misunderstandings/interpretations of patriotism often occur because most people have never personally been in situations (war) requiring patriotic sacrifice and/or they have been bainwashed to view traditional patriotism as wacky extremism.

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Hello, Mel Hoke

Are you defining "traditional patriotism" as valuing ideals, rather than actually working to make one's country work/be better?  Because I do value "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," I don't allow "patriotism" to mean anything other than action, not words without actions, such as voting, speaking the truth about one's country, and seeking to repair its flaws.  If the flaws are not worked on, we lose our beloved, and yes, sacred to me, as well, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  My uncle fought in World War II and made the sacrifice of losing his mind because, as a bombadier, he and his crew accidentally bombed a hospital.  All the other members killed themselves within a few years.  My uncle was borderline crazy and alcoholic the rest of his life because he could never forgive himself.  I do not see "traditional patriotism"--saluting the flat, hand over heart, etc. as "wacky extremism."  I simply believe it must be accompanied by more than that alone.  As an analogy:  A parent can tell a child he or she loves that child over and over and over, but if there are not actions (affirmations of the worth of the child that go with the words), the child grows up empty and feeling unloved.  Real patriotism, like real love, must be accompanied by actions--voting, speaking out for what one believes, taking part in one's government and not allowing the few in Congress--talk about "Orwellian newspeak in its purest form"--out of self-serving interests to shape the destiny of one's country as one sees it headed toward disaster. 

Thank you for sharing your blog.

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Patriotism Blog

For most of Western history, devotion to fathers has been our ultimate loyalty. The Latin concept of the all-powerful father, the “pater potestas,” permeated not only daily life but the symbolism of Christianity as well. The idea and practice of citizenship within a nation defined by the boundaries of land was a seed slow to germinate. With its first flowering in the eighteenth century, devotion to the father became devotion to the nation, its land, and the ideals of citizenship. Paternal loyalty became “patriotism” – devotion to the fatherland.
This transcending devotion, still conceived in patriarchal terms, produced not only higher levels of civility and equality, but also, by undermining local and familial loyalties, laid the groundwork for totalitarian states and dictatorships. Above all, it created the nationalism that fueled the wars of the twentieth century, destroying not only millions of people, but despoiling the earth for generations yet to come.
We now face the challenge of moving from the patriarchal loyalties of family, clan, and nation to a loyalty to the earth. For some, Earth stands as a Mother, and our loyalty is shaped by the values we associate with the mother-child bond. For others, this Mother is Gaia, a more impersonal system of life to which we must adjust. In any case, we see the rise of efforts to articulate a loyalty to Earth – to respect for the integrity of its systems, awe of its natural beauty, gratitude for its sustenance, and care for its sustainability. We must claim our place not as children of the father, or citizens of the nation, but as earthlings – stewards of this precious planet.