The Nation has always marched to a different drummer, opposing US involvement in the Spanish-American War and World War I and the Vietnam War, while giving all-out support to the US effort in World War II. Former Nation editor Ernest Gruening of Alaska was one of only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to the Vietnam debacle.
As a result, we’ve been called–among other things–un-American and unpatriotic throughout the 142 years The Nation has been around and publishing. After all, going back to our founding by abolitionists, through the movement for labor rights in the 20s and 30s, and the movement for civil rights in the 60s, those who fought to achieve the American dream of equal rights for all were scorned, ridiculed and deemed disloyal.
Our definition of patriotism is fighting to make sure your country lives up to its highest ideals–which is one reason the magazine published a special issue on patriotism for its 125th anniversary in July 1991. It came during the aftermath of the First Gulf War, when many of that war’s opponents were being slapped with the “unpatriotic” label. The anniversary issue was a reflection of our love of country and it gave voice to the rich and diverse panoply of ideas about what patriotism means, has meant, and will mean.
In the lead editorial, the eminent political thinker John Schaar described the issue and its contributors: “This patriotism is rooted in the love of one’s own land and people, love too of the best ideals of one’s own culture and tradition…This patriotism too has deep roots and long continuity in our history. Its voice is often temporarily shouted down…but it has never been stilled…We should not be surprised if this voice is often heard lamenting or rebuking the country’s failures to live up to its own best ideals, which have always been the ideals of the fullest possible freedom and the most nearly equal justice for all…There are about as many kinds of patriots and patriotism [in this issue] as there are writers. And that is exactly as it should be. For the chief worry about the thing called patriotism is that one or another group is always trying to grab the term, put a parochial meaning on it and impose that meaning as the only legitimate one, silencing and excluding others, denying them a place at the table.”