WHAT PATRIOTISM SHOULD MEAN IN MODERN-DAY AMERICA
… the Gettysburg Address recognizes no such boundaries. Instead, the nation Lincoln speaks into being is one that defers to the primacy of truths far beyond the limitations of law, history and human nature. Uprooted from its ancient constraints, the American nation ceases to be a polity and is rendered an aspirational project – forever condemned to a process of becoming. This is the America of the second founding, America as an idea. And though the disinterested patriot might not fully recognize his conversion and the gulf that separates him from his so-called Founding Fathers, he will inevitably articulate his own patriotism as the pursuit of amorphous ideals, with freedom and equality foremost among them.
America as an idea offers little protection against mobs, idealogues, and fanatics. Instead, the corrosive project moves at a breakneck pace, and patriotism becomes incoherent. Mass democracy leaves our national symbols starched of meaning, and the star-spangled rhetoric of politicians engenders disgust rather than devotion.
I believe we can and should recover that patriotism; a simple obligation to those things that are embodied, not to lofty ideals and aspirational projects. You cannot transcend your own national history any more than you can create heaven on earth, and attempting to do so will keep us all trapped inside the tyranny of ideas. We Americans are exhausted from living in a state of perpetual revolution, and we bristle more and more when ideology dictates our most basic needs and desires. But these might just be the final moments of America the idea. And Patriotism – the way it was originally intended – might be the only effective tool we have against this ideological regime.
The thing to remember is that Lincoln was not one of the Founding Fathers. Though many people seem to believe he was. And though he may, or may not, be a great American; his deeds did not strengthen the base and foundation of the American Republic. Even though he did preserve it’s physical boundaries. During his term he burst the restraints on the Federal Government at the expense of the States who became more subservient to it. Setting the stage for the Progressives of the early Twentieth Century who ushered in Federal Taxation, direct election of US Senators and the rest of it.
Democrats quote Lincoln far more often that Republicans and in ways that always elevate populism and equality over everything else, even our own nation.