‘Real Americans’ have always been rebels: a guide for progressive patriotism
After the collapse of Occupy Wall Street, my wife and I fled the progressive groupthink of Berkeley, California and resettled out here in Nehalem, in rural Oregon, close to unpoliced forests and far from the nearest university, airport or anarchist infoshop.
All was reasonably well until I ran for mayor of my tiny town, provoking a backlash. When I received a racist death threat shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, I was forced to see my rural community and my diverse country in a newly sinister light.
The ugly truth is that many, if not most, of my neighbors voted for Trump’s authoritarian bigotry. And then — like the Brits upset by Brexit, the French disturbed by Marine Le Pen, and Filipinos furious about Rodrigo Duterte — I found myself torn by a civil war fought between the side of me that hates what my country has become, and the patriotic part of my spirit that loves what my country could be.
After weeks of inner struggle, the patriotic side has won and I glimpse the path upward: we must seize patriotism from those who are destroying our democracies.
We must reclaim patriotism
Oftentimes, progressives are all too quick to abandon patriotism when their country strays dangerously from its ideals. The tenor of this anti-patriotism was most eloquently captured by Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who Donald Trump recently praised for doing an “amazing job”.
Shortly before the Europe-wide revolution of 1848 that violently dethroned France’s King Louis Philippe, Douglass returned to the US from Britain where he had fled to escape the slave-catchers sent by his former master. In a powerful speech delivered in New York, Douglass called for a revolution, declaring:
I have no love for America, as such; I have no patriotism … I desire to see [America] overthrown as speedily as possible and its Constitution shivered in a thousand fragments, rather than that this foul curse should continue to remain as now.
His words presaged the coming American civil war, a notoriously bloody conflict that revised the constitution to include the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to overturn slavery.