- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008


Sen. Barack Obama said: “I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.” To this, Sen. McCain replied: “I do not question his patriotism. I question his judgment.”

However, the American people need to understand that Mr. McCain is using the traditional meaning of patriotism, but Mr. Obama is using the postmodern meaning. Mr. McCain’s version means demonstrated love, support, defense and sacrifice for one’s country and loyalty to that country. Mr. Obama’s version means the feelings, emotions and dreams someone has about others and his or her country. Proponents of both versions claim to express love for past, present and future countrymen.

Traditional American patriotism says there is right and wrong behavior, as defined by society, to demonstrate patriotism without regard to personal opinion. This means putting the country first - before ideology, factions, personal ambition or anything else. Most Europeans consider this view of patriotism a relic of the past. On the other hand, postmodernists present patriotism as being subjective and dependent on the life narrative of each individual. This means the memories, hopes, dreams and feelings of each person create love for country. Opposition to your country’s policies and actions that you consider unjust is, in the minds of postmodernists, an aspect of patriotism.

Patriotism gained its meaning as nation-states became the major actors in world affairs. With the decline of the divine right of kings, it became necessary to shift loyalty from an individual to a nation, i.e. a collectivity. Patriotism performs the essential functions of creating and maintaining 1) loyalty within a nation, 2) respect for authority and the institutions of governance, and 3) a sense of reverence for a nation.

In addition to designating a new president, the election will be a referendum on the meaning of patriotism. As such, it will advance one side in the struggle between modernism and postmodernism that has gripped all of us since the 1960s. If the postmodern version gains acceptance, it will erode the functions that the concept of patriotism has served for more than 300 years.



Armiger Cromwell Center


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