Although the July 4 holiday celebrations are over, now is as good a time as any to address a myth that has been growing ever more pervasive in recent years.
Often regurgitated by liberals, particularly northern liberals, and usually with a high level of condescension, it’s the myth of the “blind patriot.”
You are likely familiar with this stereotype. Typically the person representing it is portrayed as a Southern male who loves country music and domestic beer. He drives a truck with an American flag decal on the rear window, and he doesn’t take kindly to those who contradict him.
As one British reporter from the Guardian wrote, “there seems to be an allegiance of blind patriotism in certain aspects of American society,” and he decried many American patriots calling our nation “the greatest country on earth” while ignoring the country’s shortcomings.
The only problem with that claim (other than the author’s failure to acknowledge the equally abrasive level of national pride that I personally witnessed in the pubs of England just a few short years ago) is that we have little evidence this beer-guzzling ignorant American actually exists — at least not in any meaningful way.
In fact, as a recent comprensive polling study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute reveals, the most patriotic Americans are also some of America’s most ardent critics.
Let’s look at the numbers. Just before September 11, 2001, about 55 percent of Americans were “extremely proud” of being an American, while 32 percent were “very proud.” A meager 2 percent of the U.S. population said they were either “only a little” proud or “not proud at all.” With 98 percent of Americans being proud to call themselves patriots, one could assume that group includes both ends of the stereotypical political spectrum, from truck-driving conservatives to pony-tailed liberals.
Of course, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the sheer exultance in national pride rose sharply. American flags hung from every porch and highway overpass. People of all political affiliations stood up in solidarity. But although the emotional effect of those attacks faded somewhat with the passage of time, patriotic sentiment is still strong.
As recently as June of last year, more than 54 percent of Americans were still “extremely proud” to be an American, while 27 percent were still “very proud.” This is despite the common notion touted by the media that Americans are losing pride at a record pace.
So is this blind patriotism? Not so much. Americans still find plenty to criticize in their society, AEI’s report noted.
Just last month, for instance, a Gallup poll revealed only 29 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. What’s more, a whopping 69 percent of Americans were definitively “dissatisfied” with the state of the nation.
And yet, the vast majority of Americans still love their country. It is not blind support; the majority will readily admit the country has problems, and they are more than willing to outline what those problems are.
But instead of harping on the country’s weaknesses all the time, Americans allow themselves to express love for their homeland — especially on July 4. In any other nation, it would be called pride, patriotism, love of country. In America, more and more often, we are calling it “nationalism.”
Nationalism is blind; it roars without caveats. Patriotism, on the other hand, sees with clear eyes at what makes our country great — and what we could do to make it greater.
Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.