Of all the things a presidential candidate can trip on during the long run to the White House, patriotism is usually not one of them. But it happened to Barack Obama.
The questions revolve around American symbols. Rumors spread about his removal of an American flag lapel pin, rumors that he won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance or place his hand over his heart when he does.
Most rumors about him simply aren’t true, but he felt compelled to make speeches about patriotism, kicked off with one given in Harry Truman’s home town of Independence, Missouri. The Obama Campaign created a web site, “Fight the Smears,” to dispel rumors. One video clip shows Obama leading the Pledge of Allegiance in the U.S. Senate with his hand over his heart.
This week, please, tell us what you think about the complex value of patriotism. In addition to the option of clicking to Add a Comment in the upper-right-hand corner of this page — we also invite you to Email your answer to us directly. That Email option is just one more way you can add to this important discussion.
Here’s what I want to know: Patriotism is often defined as “love of country.” But there’s more than one kind of love. Here are four distinct kinds.
- Love of American symbols — the flag, Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem. Political scientists, such as Leonie Huddy and Nadia Khatib, call this “symbolic patriotism.”
- Blind love is the kind of patriotism represented by “America: Love It or Leave It” and “My Country Right or Wrong.” This sometimes is called “uncritical patriotism.”
- Tough love is the form of affection behind “constructive patriotism” — support of country coupled with criticism and actions intended to improve the nation and help it live up to its ideals.
- Identification with America also is a kind of love in which people tell us it’s important to be American, to see oneself as American, and to speak about Americans as “we” instead of “they.”
One kind of patriotism isn’t inherently right or wrong. The vitality of America comes when all four types are combined in a productive fashion.
What kinds of patriotism do you see around you? Which kinds do you see in Obama ads? McCain ads? Which form of patriotism rings true for you?
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If you’d like to wach the Obama video, which his staff has posted on their anti-smear site, we’ve provided this easy link to jump directly to that video.
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