A few years ago, Gallup or one of   the   other major polling operations surveyed a cross-section of the American populace on the issue of patriotism. The most curious of the results, as I recall, was that Republicans were considerably more likely than Democrats or political independents to say that they were “extremely patriotic.” […]

 

 

A few years ago, Gallup or one of   the   other major polling operations surveyed a cross-section of the American populace on the issue of patriotism. The most curious of the results, as I recall, was that Republicans were considerably more likely than Democrats or political independents to say that they were “extremely patriotic.”

That struck me   as so typically Republican. Extremism seems to be the long suit among today's  GOPers.

But the main problem with that poll was that patriotism is a nebulous concept. We can all claim that we love our country, but we're likely to disagree among one another on the meaning of true patriotism.

If I had been included in that survey, I would have politely told the pollster that he or she  was on a fool's errand. You can't measure true patriotism with a few stupid questions. I'm sure that at least a few of the respondents in that poll who considered themselves “extremely patriotic”  actually were people of low character and sparse intelligence.

True patriotism, as I see it, is not a matter of love for the American flag. It doesn't depend on how solemnly you sing the National Anthem or whether you agree or disagree with the protests made famous by footballer Colin Kaepernick.   Rather, it's a matter of dedication to the noble principles embodied in the U.S.   Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

My own patriotism was frequently called into question in  the 1960s and '70s because I conspicuously protested against American military involvement in Vietnam. I argued   that  U.S. participation in the conflict  in Southeast  Asia  was illegal and immoral because it violated the constitutional requirement for a formal declaration of war and because the war was unwinnable for America  in the traditional sense.  Sure, we could have bombed the whole of Vietnam back to the Stone Age, but what good  would that have been?

History eventually vindicated my judgment, and the war finally ended in defeat for the United States and the deaths of more than 58,000 of our mostly young military recruits.

A few years later, an older couple approached me at a public  gathering and apologized for having impugned my  patriotism while  their son, an acquaintance of mine,  served with distinction  in the U.S. military in Vietnam.

“I hated you,” the mother said.   “But Tom (her son) says you were right. The whole thing was a waste, and he (Tom) wishes he had never been involved.”

I never felt more patriotic in my life.   I hadn't   played any major role in the overall   scheme   of things, but it was a matter of pride to hear this couple admit that troublemakers like me had been right and that the pseudo-patriots who disdained  us had been wrong.

The moral of that  story, as I see it,   is that the truly patriotic way can be especially difficult.   In the early days of the Vietnam conflict,   the politically correct stance was full support of the American mission in Asia. Dissent was unpatriotic. But I felt that one's conscience had to be heeded, even at the risk of widespread condemnation.

But no, I don't consider myself “extremely patriotic.” There's nothing “extreme” about true patriotism.   You're   either patriotic or you're not. People who see themselves as extremely patriotic generally are to be avoided.

Most of  the readers of this piece probably think of themselves as patriotic, even though, as I said above,  they also  probably disagree among one another on the issues of the day. But that's all   right. That's the way America is supposed to be.