“…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
We are facing a crisis of identity in America; a crisis of solidarity. We are divided by our race and ethnicity. We are divided by our wealth and class. We are divided by our religion. We are divided by our politics. In a thousand ways, America is fractured along numerous fault lines, some evident and others hidden from sight. America is divided against itself, and this divide is threatening to destroy the social fabric of our nation which has held us together since our founding.
A third of Americans’ views of the world are shaped by nationalism, extremism, and xenophobia. This is the so-called “alt-right” movement, a movement that is growing and becoming more mainstream. They believe themselves to be defenders of the “true” America, an America of white Christians. In their minds, they are defending America against a globalists who threaten their sense of ethnic identity and secularists who are threatening their religion. They view themselves as rural and working class heroes defending the American way of life against over-educated, snobbish elites. They believe free-trade is destroying American prosperity and despise the liberal Democrats and establishment Republicans who defend it. These men and women see themselves true American patriots.
But what is a patriot? Patriotism is a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially during impassioned debates about politics. It means love and devotion for one’s country, but for a word meant to unite, it has become something rather divisive. Each side, in every argument, views themselves as the true patriots fighting for the ideals of the nation they love.
In order for us to define a patriot, we must first define a nation. You have to ask yourself: what is it that makes your country yours? What is it about your country that inspires your love and devotion? Is it the system of government and the laws and the institutions? Or is it the people?
For me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. You cannot love a nation if you do not love its people, and America is a diverse nation. We are nation made-up of every conceivable religion, ethnicity, and social class. What binds these diverse groups of people together is a shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives.
To love your country, as a true patriot,
you must learn to love the diversity that exists within it.
Patriotism is a sense that we’re all in this together. A sense that we are all created equal and should all be afforded the same opportunities; that we should all be treated fairly in the eyes of the law; that our different backgrounds and identities strengthen our nation.
However, the sense of solidarity has been eroded over the years, exacerbated by the emergence of social media platforms and new media outlets which fuel these divisions with content meant not to inform and educate, but to anger and persuade. Videos of police killing unarmed black men while humanely arresting Dylan Roof, an armed mass-murderer, placed side-by-side and distributed across the internet have illuminated the disparity in the way our justice system treats minorities. The growing disparity between rich and poor is driving anger and class division. As our cities become economic centers-of-gravity for businesses, Americans are dividing into urban and rural cultures which are more and more disconnected from one another.
These growing divides have been brought to light in recent years, culminating in clashes between the two sides which have grown more violent with every passing day. Each side is fighting the other, claiming the title of patriot for themselves and condemning the opposing side as enemies of the nation. If these divisions continue to grow and the tension continues to rise, then America will face a new period of darkness looming on the horizon; one of violent struggle.
You must rise up and defend what makes your country yours
against those who would try to reshape your country
into something it is not.
For me, a true patriot loves their country, and you cannot separate a country from its people. To love your country, as a true patriot, you must learn to love the diversity that exists within it. You must define your country for yourself to know what patriotism looks like for you. And once you have defined your country and established the nature of patriotism, you must rise up and defend that notion against those who would try to reshape your country into something it is not.
You must be loud and vocal about what makes your country yours. Why? Because I can guarantee other people with nationalist views of patriotism will be vocal in their beliefs.
Author: William Gardner. Photo: Pixabay