Do you feel that Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values? If so, you have plenty of company. Most of us feel that way, according to national polls. Over half of the audience at the start of last week’s event in Chicago agreed that Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values. I was panelist at this event, the first in a series of programs called The (Un)Common Good.
But are we truly divided? Many people in Chicago changed their minds after hearing the facts. We actually polled the audience before and after the event, so we know that minds were changed. As we all went home, a majority agreed that there are, indeed, core American values. These are guiding principles that are strongly and widely held throughout America, as we’ve learned from four national polls I conducted during the past two years.
Knowing there are core American values is important, especially in troubled times when political discourse has become more polarized and uncivil. This week, I’ll report the top five of these core dozen.
TOP 5 CORE AMERICAN VALUES: PATRIOTISM
Patriotism is an emotional attachment to a place, people, and way of life. George Orwell said there is even a spiritual need for patriotism, of feeling a part of something immortal. Patriotism is different from nationalism, which in excess can lead to discrimination internally or aggression externally. There are different kinds of patriotism. Two kinds qualify as core American values.
PATRIOTISM 1: LOVE OF AMERICAN SYMBOLS
The vast majority of Americans say that seeing the flag or hearing the national anthem makes them feel good. Symbolic patriotism is nice, but the only behavior of consequence it might motivate is flying the flag on the 4th of July or watching a parade.
PATRIOTISM 2: CRITICAL LOVE
A large majority of Americans say that if they criticize the U.S., they do so out of love of country. They also say that if they oppose some U.S. policies, it is because they want to improve the country. So, even when people have different opinions about America, they still agree about core principles. This fact is important to keep in mind when participating in civil discussion with others about our nation.
Do you feel patriotic?
Does the flag or anthem quicken your pulse?
Is love of country behind some disagreements with others?
Please, “Comment” below.
(Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)