Reclaiming Patriotism

Reclaiming Patriotism

When Steven B. Smith told his Yale colleagues about the topic of the book he was working onReclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes– he was met with bewildered and even troubled looks. Perhaps they viewed patriotism (following British critic of the American Revolution Samuel Johnson) as the last refuge of scoundrels. Or perhaps something else is at work that has turned Americans off to the idea of love for one's country. There seems to be a skepticism of our own history and national values, which in the extreme erodes any semblance of patriotism.

Smith is careful to distinguish patriotism from nationalism, which often accompanies ethnic chauvinism, while also warning against the dangers of excessive cosmopolitanism that is so fashionable among elites in academic institutions and government.


Can patriotism be reclaimed in a way that brings these two extremes of American politics closer together under one banner? It turns out a certain amount of skepticism about America can be healthy and is even part of what makes our country so great. Professor Smith helped me understand first of all why patriotism has gotten such a bad rap, and secondly, how it can be revived without stoking the flames of international conflict or invoking a dangerous "us vs. them" mentality.


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Notes on Steven Smith - Patriot