PostHeaderIcon Considering Patriotism

This being the holiday when we (should) celebrate our national independence, it seems a reasonable time to reflect on the notion of Patriotism and of the Patriot. To some extent, this article is in response to the blog post at: http://www.thoughtsaloud.com/2013/06/11/does-the-truth-realy-make-us-free/ and to the many comments it prompted (and for which I thank all of you).

To start things off, I offer definitions of the two words, taken from Dictionary.com:

patriotism:
devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.

patriot:
1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

While I do not argue with these definitions, I nevertheless find them lacking. For instance, “patriotism” is defined as being about one’s country and national loyalty. Fine, but exactly what does this mean? Is the “country” the physical land? Is it the citizenry? Is it the nation – and, by extension, the government? Common sense suggests to me that it is a combination of these. Again, fine, so far as it goes.

Next, when we consider the definition of “patriot”, we get another “spin” on things. Again is repeated the devotion to country, but, added is the notion that a “patriot” also defends the rights of the individual citizen against governmental interference. And, herein lies the rub.

It is noble and good to love, support and defend the country that provides your liberty and your sustenance. But, if “country” includes both the nation/government and the individual citizens, what happens when these two entities are at cross purposes to each other? Most especially when, after rational consideration of the facts at hand, it becomes apparent that the workings of government are not consistent with the best interests of the citizens?

At this point, I must digress to a discussion of “the best interests of the citizens”. We live in stressful times where support for our current form of government is sharply divided between those who do truly love, support, and defend our country and who, at the same time, do not support many governmental actions, -and- those whose support for the current government, and its actions is bought and paid for using funds from the public treasury along with borrowed funds that threaten to enslave future generations. In my view, the first group described are the true patriots while the second group constitutes little more than mercenaries and parasites whose true loyalties are actually to themselves and nothing else. Ergo, while it is bought at great cost, I consider the interests of this latter group to be worthless in determining the “best interests of the citizens”.

That said, I ask again, what should happen when the best interests of the true patriots and the operation of the nation/government are at cross purposes? Well, if you support our founding principles, specifically those expressed in the Declaration Of Independence (the Founding Document we are supposed to be celebrating today), then the answer is easy. That nation/government is the creation of the true patriots. Period. And, as such, it is supposed to be their servant rather than the true patriots being subjects of the nation/government.

To quote the Declaration directly:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

This brings me back to the point I tried to make in “Does The Truth REALLY Make Us Free?”… when any government (or any element of government such as federal, state or local), ceases to operate in the best interests of its citizenry, then such government loses part or all of its legitimacy. When such a condition exists, as I claim exists in these United States as I write this, then what obligation do the citizens have to obey the laws established by the illegitimate government? I realize that this can be a most difficult question because no rational person claims that mischief on the part of government constitutes an excuse for total anarchy and the chaos that would result.

Yet, perhaps the question is not difficult at all. I submit that all we need do in such a case is to strictly obey our Constitution, as originally written, and that we should further insist that all elements of government do the same. If they refuse this simple and legal request, then we take WHATEVER actions we find necessary to remove such government and replace it with another which will obey the laws under which it is constituted.
The seems a good point to voice another opinion… Those who would destroy our principles seek to do so partly by claiming (with evident success) that our Founding Principles were not fixed and rigid but, instead, are a fluid thing that can flow here then there, in accordance with popular whim and general opinion. My friends, such is not the nature of a Republic.
What then of the argument that our Constitution must change with the times? I respond that such a need arises only in those instances where government is attempting to operate in areas where it does not belong – and where the Constitution gave it no license to operate. Simply return government to its proper Constitutional role and all these arguments dissipate of their own accord.

Which leads me to a closing thought: If we are to heal the wounds that plague our Republic and bring our people back together as one, then we MUST find common cause.

Does this mean we should all adopt the same religion? Absolutely not!

Does this mean we should all adopt the same political view (or world view)? Absolutely not!

Does this mean that all disagreement over social issues must cease? Absolutely not!

I could go on and on with these questions but, let us ask the real question… what then must we all agree to in order to heal our Republic? Simple! All we must do is agree to support and adhere to our Constitution, as written. In those few cases where it may need to be changed, then we collectively change it using the processes documented (in that same Constitution) for doing so. But, let us never again try to change the course of our Republic by ignoring the principles upon which it was founded. Principles which are clearly stated in and by our Founding Documents.

By-the-way, would all of you please do our Republic the honor of referring to this day as “American Independence Day”? The “Fourth of July” exists throughout the Western world. “American Independence Day” exists only here.

Think about it.

Troy L Robinson

22 Responses to “Considering Patriotism”

  • Larry Andrew says:

    Troy…everything flowed along quite nicely until you got to the simple solution being to adhere to our Constitution, as written. That is a solution espoused often by those who think they know what all the words of the Constitution mean and what they founding fathers meant when they wrote them.

    As you are aware, our history includes over 200 years of decision-making by the Supreme Court striking down or upholding laws passed by our elected representatives or by popular vote. In addition, they have provided their interpretations of what is and is not constitutional as is their responsibility and prerogative. Fortunately, I think for all of us, we don’t have to rely on individuals who, much like religions interpreting the bible, interpret the written word to mean damn near anything they want them to mean.

    I would bet that some of your ideas on the meaning of the Constitution likely differ from mine and from the Supreme Court. It is not simple. Before you declare your certain knowledge of the Constitution, it might be useful to review the various interpretations of words of the document that have been decided by the court. Sometimes, different meanings of the same words at different times in our history. Unless you are suggesting that we change our form of government to exclude the Court from the process, it is unlikely that you will ever reach a point where the interpretations mesh with your individual views of their meaning…or mine, for that matter.

    • Troy says:

      …it is unlikely that you will ever reach a point where the interpretations mesh with your individual views of their meaning…or mine, for that matter.

      Larry,
      I do not attempt to interpret anything. I find the language of the Constitution rather simple and to the point (although it is written in the style of another time).

      I am a very simple man who is only capable of dealing with a world where “yes” means “yes”, “no” means “no”, “Congress shall pass no law…” means “Congress shall pass no law…” and “Enumerated powers…” means “Enumerated powers”. As implied elsewhere, I find that problems arise only when we try to make words mean other than what they mean. Once that starts, how can anyone be expected to understand anything? Obviously they can’t — and, IMHO, this is the whole point to the often obnoxious attempts to “interpret”. Instead, they are actually attempts (successful ones at that) to obfuscate.

      Troy

      • Larry Andrew says:

        Troy…have you stopped beating your wife?

        • Larry Andrew says:

          The question is clear. It does not require interpretation. Yes or no? I am sure the answer is not no and since there is only one other option the answer must be yes…unless you disagree with my choice, which leaves you only one other option.

        • Larry Andrew says:

          That is unless you wish to qualify your answer with a more expansive response which would flesh out answer so that everyone is clear that the question does not lend itself to a yes or no answer.

        • Troy says:

          Larry,
          I am not married.. However, my significant other has stopped beating me.

          Troy

  • Larry Andrew says:

    I have been amused lately watching the politicals comment on the recent Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, doma and voting rights. The most comical is the Christian right loyalists criticizing the court for finding a way to avoid overturning Prop 8 or, put another way, upholding the Appeals court ruling on the matter. At the same time they accuse the court of ignoring the “will of the people” they are applauding the decision to excise the formula for evaluating States election rules in advance of implementation. The formula was passed by Congress, representing the will of the people.

    The reverse is true from the perspective of the left, proving to me at least that interpretations of the constitution by political hacks is problematic at best and that we would be in deep do-do if we did not have the Court as a backstop against those who think that they, individually, have a special knowledge and understanding of what is or is not Constitutional.

    In my experience, most who think they possess that special knowledge of the intent of the founders have spent very little time studying the history of Court findings on Constitutional matters and are not open to the information that such study might provide them.

    • Troy says:

      Larry,
      I claim no “special knowledge of the intent of the Founders”. I also claim such is not necessary. Between the quite simple words of the Constitution itself and the various letters and other published writings of the Founders, I find little room for mystery.

      As I said in the article, the “problem” arises when people, of whatever persuasion, get government involved in places it was never intended to be.

      As for the legislature passing bills in response to the “will of the people”, in a Republic, there are very rigid rules bounding what the “will of the people” can and cannot do within Constitutional law.

      As for the pronouncements of the various courts over the years, you know as well as I that these were mostly driven by political preference rather than an honest attempt to unravel whatever mysteries the Constitution is supposed to contain.

      The Christian Bible is a very lengthy conglomeration of unrelated works that have always contradicted each other. I see no comparison between such a cobbled-together bit of rubbish and the very rational singularity of purpose and intent found in our short and simple Constitution.

      Troy

  • Larry Andrew says:

    Troy…I take your point regarding my use of bible interpretation vs. the Constitution. To be clear, I was attempting to focus my point on the word “interpretation” even tho you don’t think it is applicable. There is no question in my mind that you are “interpreting” the constitution. Even tho you say there is no interpretation involved, the record thruout our history proves otherwise. Your determination that the words or phrases you use as examples simply proves that you have established your interpretation which, in some cases, is at odds with literally hundreds of constitutional scholars and judges.

    No matter how you attempt to square your point, you cannot avoid the inconsistencies that surface when you decide certain words or phrases in the constitution mean what you say they mean which also happen to fit your version of how our constitutional government limits are applied. If the “interpretations” do not fit your world, it seems you will always argue that is because those charged with the responsibility for judging have not understand the simple meaning of the words at issue.

    Further, above you refer to various letters and records of the discussions leading to the writing of the document, implying that you have at least attempted to identify the reasons for some of the words and phrases that have required interpretation over the years. That alone is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a need to attempt to discern intent in the process of “interpreting” the document.

    I don’t see any way to dispute your belief that the judicial decisions have been influenced by politics. Humans cannot help but be influenced by the world around them, including political evolution and precedent. You are and so am I. so are the judges. it seems that you are willing to discard the validity of any judicial decision interpreting the constitution which is akin to discarding the validity of the courts role because humans are involved.

    So…..what is your alternative? How would you suggest we handle the issue of disputes involving the Constitution? Are you rejecting the entire system because politics influences the process? Are you rejecting all opinions by the courts in that regard or only those that produce a result different from your view of the meaning of the words and phrases at issue?

    It is not a simple matter and the framers really struggled with it. The system is theirs, imperfect tho it may be. Some have argued that it is better than any other. What do you think?

    • Larry Andrew says:

      Interestingly, I think, an interview of some law professor types just showed up on my Google news list and is quite relevant to this discussion. The people interviewed provide some perspective on court evolution and political influence, even as regards the simple word “equality”. Now there is a word that one would think can be simply defined but somehow even our founding fathers interpreted it to mean something entirely different than how it is now defined. Do you think we should go back to their simple definition?

      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/nation/july-dec13/scotus_07-04.html

      • Troy says:

        The people interviewed provide some perspective on court evolution and political influence, even as regards the simple word “equality”. Now there is a word that one would think can be simply defined but somehow even our founding fathers interpreted it to mean something entirely different than how it is now defined. Do you think we should go back to their simple definition?

        The Founders (Jefferson in particular) meant “equality” to mean equality before the law. The fact that no such “equality” existed at the time he wrote this cannot be construed to change his meaning. It was a clear intent of the new government being developed and, over time, the Republic has gotten ever closer to Jefferson’s ideal.

        Some would extend Jefferson’s definition of “equality” to mean equality of opportunity. More on that below…

        The only other meaning I can think of for “equality” in the context we are discussing here would be equality of outcome. To adhere to such a meaning would be to refute every principle established by the Founding documents because, in that context, equality is the opposite of liberty and there is no question that liberty was the primary goal of the Founding.

        Why do I say that equality is the opposite of liberty? Simple. The only way people can be kept is a state of presumed equality is by taking away their liberty to pursue life, each on their own terms and with their own abilities and to whatever result that may obtain. Stated another way, people in a state of liberty will not long remain equal, even though they may have started out of a state of total equality before the law.

        Then there is that other aspect of ‘equality” that must be considered. If you define “equality” and being an equality of opportunity, you propose what can never be in a state of liberty. The simple fact is that if two people, each in a state of liberty, start their lives from a totally equal starting point, all likelihood suggests that one of them will become more prosperous than the other. Assuming the state of liberty continues into the following generation, the children of the more prosperous one will certainly have some advantage over the children of the less prosperous one.

        Many progressives view this as a failure of our system. I choose to view it as one of many powerful incentives to excel, ergo, in the overall interest of human prosperity.

        Troy

    • Troy says:

      It is not a simple matter and the framers really struggled with it. The system is theirs, imperfect tho it may be. Some have argued that it is better than any other. What do you think?

      I think the above statement is absolutely correct.

      As to the various writings of the Founders, I view these as explanations rather than interpretations. And, there is a very real difference between the two.

      As to what particular words mean, I take them to mean whatever the accepted definition was as of the time they were written.

      As for inconsistencies in our Constitution, I confess that I find very few and those I do perceive seem to be of little or no consequence to the larger and obvious intent.

      I don’t see any way to dispute your belief that the judicial decisions have been influenced by politics. Humans cannot help but be influenced by the world around them, including political evolution and precedent. You are and so am I. so are the judges. it seems that you are willing to discard the validity of any judicial decision interpreting the constitution which is akin to discarding the validity of the courts role because humans are involved.

      For sure, most court decisions are based on the politics of the judges in question, tempered by their perceived notions of the popular sentiment of the moment. I reject this as a proper role of the courts. As well, I reject the notion that the Supreme Court is vested with the role of “interpreting” the Constitution. Their role is more that of judging legislation against the obvious meaning of the laws established by the Constitution then ruling on whether or not such legislation is in keeping with or in violation of the Constitution.

      I make no bones about the fact that I think the habit of constantly finding new “rights” in the Constitution has led to its virtual destruction. What they (the progressives) are intentionally doing is making complex that which is, in reality, quite simple. And they are clearly (to me) doing this for the very purpose of weakening the Constitution such that its bounds on the size, reach and authority of the Federal Government is rendered inoperable.

      For instance, two of the “Constitutional” issues currently (and unnecessarily) dividing the Republic concern marriage and abortion. The simple fact is that the Constitution does not mention either of these issues as being part of the powers delegated to the federal Government. Ergo, their resolution is the responsibility of the States and the People and the Supreme Court should butt out. But, they have somehow found previously unknown “rights” pertaining to these issues that somehow lay hidden in the Constitution in the past.

      Certainly rational people may disagree about the present-day application of some laws that were laid down during the Founding. But, I repeat, the Constitution provides its own method for making any changes agreed to by a super majority of the States and the People. Executive, Judicial and Legislative fiat are not part of the Constitutional method for change — and, resorting to such methods does little more than invalidate the Constitution. Why does this matter? Because, without strict adherence to the Constitution, the Republic soon devolves into a tyrannical form of government where all the laws are dictated by the powerful few. Have you not seen enough of this already to make you question our future?

      Thanks for keeping this discussion alive. It is good for all of us to be challenged to think these things out.

      Troy

  • Chris says:

    You guys mind if I inject a bit of observational evidence into the discussion? Hope not because your going to get it. If you look back in history the “interpretive philosophy” regarding the constitution and the “living document” philosophy are in and around one hundred years old. If you want to nail it down to particular events it’s exactly one hundred years old. I will give congress credit that in 1913 in at least two out of three events they damaged the document using the correct procedure. We all know our history here so I don’t need to elaborate further. Here’s the observation. During the past one hundred years or so as different portions of the constitution have been “interpreted” is it only coincidence that it simply becomes harder and harder for the mass citizenry to determine their own destiny? Is it harder or easier for the average family to achieve upward mobility? Can a legal immigrant still arrive on our shores broke and build a railroad? Has the ability of individuals to make their own decisions good or bad increased or decreased? Were these things more or less possible for the first one hundred and fifty years of the republic or the last hundred?

    In a past comment equal treatment under the law was mentioned. Do we still have that? No way. Most can’t afford their day in court. Trying to defend your rights can now lead to financial ruin even if you win. If you can’t defend a right you don’t have that right. Then there’s the relatively new “hate crime laws”. If a white man injures or kills a minority he can be charged with a hate crime which if convicted carry harsher penalties. If a white man injures or kills a white man was it because he loved him? Is that equal treatment under the law? No that is creating a protected class.

    I’m not saying all changes to the constitution are bad as long as they are done correctly and without back room pork to buy votes. The civil rights amendments come to mind, but even those just reenforced what I believe the constitution already said. “All men are created equal.”

    But as every liberal/progressive knows. “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is”

    • Chris says:

      Actually “All men are created equal” was the Declaration of Independence. A founding document none the less which I believe formed the basis of the constitution.

    • Chris says:

      I never really got to the bottom line. It’s simply one more question. Has the majority of “interpretations” improved or damaged the overall document that was written to benefit the citizenry.

      • Troy says:

        Chris,
        Most of the “interpretations” were, in my mind, attempts to pervert and subvert. Take, for instance, the successful attempt to “interpret” the several clauses to contain no end of implied powers for the federal government…

        Suppose that, in a conventional war, yours truly has been assigned to position of captain commanding a company of soldiers. Suppose further that my commander instructed me to “take that hill”. Under the conventional understanding of military rules, we all know what that encompassed. But, suppose that I interpret that instruction in the light of “implied powers”. I might decide that my company was insufficient to “take” said hill. I think it would require an entire army. Ergo, I appoint myself commander of an entire army (because my authority is implied by the perceived requirement to take the hill). Worse yet, if my incompetence (and that of the soldiers under my commend) cause us to fail to take the hill, then our very incompetence implies the necessity of yet more authority. Silly as this example may seem, it is nothing more than what our federal government has done via its “interpretation” of the goal of “promoting the common welfare”.

        Contrast this with the simple understanding that the enumerated powers in the Constitution are the extent of the power delegated by the people to the federal government and that the goals (or statements of purpose) in the several clauses do NOT imply the delegation of any additional powers, then our Constitution makes logical sense and lacks any inconsistencies.

        Troy

        • Larry Andrew says:

          Troy..your Captain argument is now and will ever be called the “Snowden Doctrine”. He became the Captain. In your example, the Captain would have made the wrong choice because his commander also had broader battle plans that included the use of other, available if necessary, resources and intelligence that the Captain did not know about. The Captains choice of foregoing that battle caused the Army to lose the war. Kind of like the Normandy invasion where our commanders sent our kids up against those cliffs to mostly certain death. it was only the numbers of those not killed that saved the day. That Captain would also have been shot on the spot and a Lt. appointed to take the hill.

          I think most everyone agrees with your last point. Thing is, words matter and can have different interpretations in different context. That is why our country has moved to a different place than you would have liked.

  • Larry Andrew says:

    Thing is….it was better when life was simple and we just went out and raised our chickens, cattle, rode our horses to school and were blissfully unaware of what went on elsewhere. Had to focus on day to day existence. Problem is, we are now 300 plus million and 225 plus years later and there is no way to expand like that and not have these issues develop.

    Longing for the old days when people didn’t push for their rights against the old ways of doing things is simply wishful thinking. Can’t go back. Also can’t ignore the results of our system dealing with it. So..probably wasted all of our time pondering it in the first place.

    • Troy says:

      Larry,
      While it is impractical to return to the mostly agrarian society we once were, it is quite possible to return to a culture of self reliance, personal responsibility and rational behavior. Pondering one’s condition is never a wasted effort — it is the only way to understand where we are and where we wish to go.

      Troy

  • Troy says:

    Troy..your Captain argument is now and will ever be called the “Snowden Doctrine”.

    Larry,
    I am very frustrated by my obvious inability to make a clear point… In my scenario, I was trying to illustrate the folly of “implied powers”. In the military scenario, granting “implied powers” renders military regulations inoperable. The same is true of our Constitution.

    Edward Snowden’s case has nothing to do with “implied powers”. In my mind, the Snowden case is clearly one where an individual took it upon himself to expose what he supposedly thought was a case of government misusing its powers and further misusing secrecy laws to cover the initial misuse. What his true motivations were — as well as what he hoped to gain by his actions — is known only to him.

    Troy

  • Troy says:

    Thing is, words matter and can have different interpretations in different context. That is why our country has moved to a different place than you would have liked.

    Larry,
    I mean no insult when I tell you that I don’t understand the above statement. None of this has the slightest thing to do with what I like or do not like. I am merely trying to point out the hazard in allowing absolute power to a government — any government. Yet, that is what happens when the people do not force government to abide by documented law. Either the Constitution means what it clearly says or it is beside the point. If the Constitution is beside the point, then we have become subjects of a tyranny rather than citizens of a republic. I fail to understand what is complicated about this.

    Troy

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