By: Greg Mitchell
A cover story coming in tomorrow’s TIME magazine, on The Real Meaning of Patriotism, is timed to next week’s July 4 holiday — and the current race for the White House. In fact, it includes pieces written by both Barack Obama and John McCain, along with the main story by columnist Peter Beinart.
Managing Editor Richard Stengel sets the scene: “What we need going forward is third-way patriotism, a new patriotism that blends the faith of our fathers with, as Lincoln said, the unfinished work remaining before us …”
Beinart: “When it comes to patriotism, conservatives and liberals need each other, because love of country requires both affirmation and criticism. It’s a good thing that Americans fly the flag on July 4. In a country as diverse as ours, patriotic symbols are a powerful balm. And if people stopped flying the flag every time the government did something they didn’t like, it would become an emblem not of national unity but of political division. On the other hand, waving a flag, like holding a Bible, is supposed to be a spur to action. … Patriotism should be proud but not blind, critical yet loving. And liberals and conservatives should agree that if patriotism entails no sacrifice, if it is all faith and no works, then something has gone wrong.”
Obama: “The true genius of America [is] a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. It’s the idea that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted. For me, it is the love and defense of these ideals that constitutes the true meaning of patriotism. They are ideals that do not belong to any particular party or group of people but call each of us to service and sacrifice for the sake of our common good.”
McCain: “Patriotism and the citizenship it requires should motivate the conduct of public officials, but it also thrives in the communal spaces where government is absent, anywhere Americans come together to govern their lives and their communities — in families, churches, synagogues, museums, symphonies, the Little League, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army or the VFW. They are the habits and institutions that preserve democracy. They are the ways, small and large, we come together as one country, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all. They are the responsible exercise of freedom and are indispensable to the proper functioning of a democracy. Patriotism is countless acts of love, kindness and courage that have no witness or heraldry and are especially commendable because they are unrecorded.”