What Is Patriotism?

What Is Patriotism?

The Nation asks our readers: What do you value in the traditions of your country? Tell us what patriotism means to you.


Nearly two decades ago, The Nation invited friends and colleagues to address the question of just what patriotism is and ought to be: Is there a patriotism that is not nationalistic? How does the historic internationalism of the liberal left relate to the concept of patriotism? What do we value in the traditions of our country? Why is patriotism often seen as the province of the right? Fourteen writers, academics and thinkers weighed in, including Jesse L. Jackson, Natalie Merchant, Richard Falk, Richard A. Cloward & Frances Fox Piven, Mary McGrory, Stephen F. Cohen and current Nation Editor and Publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. Their illuminating answers encapsulate a predicament still facing progressives: how to express love for one’s country while forthrightly combating its defects. (Read all the responses here.)

Earlier this decade, Peter Drier and Richard Flacks took on these same questions in a 2002 Nation article titled, "Patriotism’s Secret History." As the authors wrote:

"The progressive authors of much of America’s patriotic iconography rejected blind nationalism, militaristic drumbeating and sheeplike conformism. So it would be a dire mistake to allow, by default, jingoism to become synonymous with patriotism and the American spirit. Throughout our nation’s history, radicals and reformers have viewed their movements as profoundly patriotic. They have believed that America’s core claims–fairness, equality, freedom, justice–were their own. In the midst of current patriotic exuberance both authentic and manipulated, then, it is useful to recall the forgotten cultural legacy of the left. We need to ask, once again, ‘What is America to us?’"

Now for this year’s Fourth of July, we’re excited to extend the same question to our readers. What is patriotism, and what does being a patriot mean to you? Send us your answers here. We’ll publish as many of the submissions as possible on our community page.

—The Editors

Dear reader,

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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