Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, “Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you.”

Emma Goldman, “What Is Patriotism?” (1909)

A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.

Bill Vaughan. “Brainy Quotes

Patriotism is a tricky subject for the left in our age of far-right nuttiness.  I don’t think any of us would deny that we find patriotism– or perhaps we mean nationalism–a horrific and far too often rigid and violent set of notions and beliefs.  Yet criticism of patriotism can easily fall into Tea Party clichés about the evils of the Federal Government. We want to sound like Emma Goldman but we end up echoing Timothy McVeigh. That’s why I like the Bill Vaughan quote.

I lived overseas  long enough to feel the pull of being an expatriate but I came back to the United States because I love my culture and language and family. I might have felt differently if I had been better at learning another language and at internalizing another culture.  I do feel a certain love of country, though, with all of its contradictions, but its borders are ill-defined and porous. My country blurs into Canada and Mexico and across oceans.

The U.S. isn’t the best country in the world. I doubt we ever were. It’s getting worse, too, as we grow more sharply divided between rich and poor and as we continue to neglect the institutions and values– especially higher education and a national health care system– that would make us more developed as a people and more just.  We have a tendency to listen to charlatans, from Pet Rock salespeople to Sarah Palin.  That patriotism should be ignored.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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