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Patriotism


Pajamas Media, October 6, 2007 - The storm of controversy around candidate Barack Obama’s decision not to display a flag on his lapel has PJM Sydney editor Richard Fernandez thinking about what it truly means to be a patriot. An excerpt from Pinning Down Patriotism follows:

In 1994 a relatively unknown Australian politician contributed an article to Quadrant, a political journal. Up until then, Australian patriotism had been redefined by the politics of the 60s to the point where it became synonymous with self-flagellation. The only thing that remained worthy of a real Australian, or so its public intellectuals argued, was a willingness to say “sorry”. Not so, the Quadrant article argued.

Much of [Paul Keating’s] rhetoric about building a so-called new Australia is built on a denigration of our past and its achievements. We are consistently told that Australia’s history is a litany of intolerance, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. … The truth is that, compared with other nations, Australia’s behaviour in the area of human rights, personal freedom and general tolerance has been impressive. This is an Australian achievement stretching back over more than 200 years of which we should be positive and proud rather than negative and ashamed. So much of Paul Keating’s attack on the national identity is the rhetoric of apology and shame rather than that of praise and gratitude.

The author of the article was John Winston Howard, then two years from becoming the Prime Minister of Australia. Howard clearly understood that modern politics had become not simply a contest for governmental power; it had become a “battle of history”; a fight for the nation’s soul.

Thirteen years later Jonah Goldberg, writing in the LA Times, would realize that American patriotism was being redefined in exactly the same way. It consisted in the willingness to say “sorry”. You could drape yourself in the flag, but only if the flag was sack-cloth lined with ashes. For those types of patriots, allegiance could only be owed to a contingent America, one purged of its ills. Patriotism consisted in an allegiance to a future amid a present in which there was nothing to love. Continued...
Fernandez writes under the name Wretchard at The Belmont Club. Read the discussion pertaining to his PJM article titled Easy To Be Hard; Easy to be Cold and for more see My Country Tis of Me, posted by Wretchard on October 7th.

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