Essay: Patriotism

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Patriotism is generally defined as loyalty and love for one's country. However, patriotism's definition varies depending on how "loyalty" and "country" are themselves defined. For example, Stephen Decatur's toast indicates a definition that allows for some types of political dissent. When Decatur stated, "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong," the naval officer meant that dissention with regards to foreign policy can be injurious to national pride, identity, and military strategy. Hence, "in her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right." Yet, Decatur leaves open the possibility for political dissent with regards to domestic policies. If he were alive in the 20th century, for example, Decatur might have supported the Vietnam War while also supporting the Civil Rights movement. However, patriotism can also involve political dissent with regards to foreign policy. A country that was built on principles of freedom of expression necessitates a type of patriotism that welcomes anti-war protests and protests against foreign policies that may be considered injurious to the public welfare. From Vietnam to Iraq, the United States military campaigns have raised questions about what constitutes patriotism, and what does not. During the Bush Administration, questions about patriotism became more fervent. As Gitlin points out, patriotism has been too often and too closely linked to
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