Why Patriotism Matters

with Steven B. Smith,
hosted by Richard M. Reinsch II

Richard Reinsch (00:18):

Welcome to Liberty Law Talk. I’m Richard Reinsch. Today we’re talking with Steven Smith about his new book, Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes. Steven Smith is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He’s the author of numerous books on Leo Strauss, Spinoza, Hegel, and he previously appeared on Liberty Law Talk a few years ago to discuss his book, Modernity and Its Discontents, which has been released in paperback. So Steven Smith, it’s great to have you on again.

Steven Smith (00:53):

Thank you, Richard. It’s a pleasure to be back.

Richard Reinsch (00:57):

Steven, thinking about the book, Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes, why do we need patriotism?

Steven Smith (01:06):

Well, that’s a good question to start with, why do we need patriotism? Because obviously, not everybody thinks we do. The book began, or grew out of, an attempt to distinguish patriotism from people… Or to reclaim patriotism, I should say, as the title is, to reclaim it from people who don’t like it and therefore who think we don’t need it at all and from people who… What to say? Like it too much. And patriotism, I want to argue, is a disposition which I think is inseparable from politics so long as we are what Aristotle called political animals. So long as we live in polities and political end states. We need patriotism, it’s inseparable from a sense of loyalty and identity to the place where we belong.

Nationalists see the country as the only source of their identity. And then this is very easy for it to become coupled with feelings of anger, resentment, and most dangerously the attempt to identify enemies beginning often with the foreign enemies, but then always becoming domestic enemies, domestic others who are seen to present some kind of existential challenge to the national identity.

But patriotism, we can go into this, is an easily misunderstood virtue. As I suggested a second ago, from one side, it is identified often with all that’s wrong or even what is responsible for all that’s wrong in our politics today. And from the other side, it seems to express everything and it’s only what’s good in our life, in our political life. So it’s a difficult virtue. It is a difficult virtue and it’s a contested virtue. We can talk about that if you like.

Richard Reinsch (02:36):

Well, thinking about the title of your book, an Age of Extremes, let’s just bracket for a minute. I think you and I both agree patriotism is a good thing, it’s a needed thing. It’s, I think, a consolation in a difficult life in a difficult world. But what are the extremes right now that are currently operating that are leading us astray from properly understanding it?

Steven Smith (02:57):

Patriotism has always been contested. Go back to the ancient world. One example I use in my book is Sophocles’ Antigone which puts forward a conflict between loyalty to his family and loyalty to country. Patriotism has always been contested by other loyalties we have and that will never go away. We are beings with conflicting loyalties, and so long as we remain beings with conflicting loyalties patriotism will be challenged by other loyalties we have. The two dominant challenges to patriotism today come from, I’ve already suggested it to left and right to pretty much map onto that distinction.

I’ll start with the left, what we might call the cosmopolitan left, the kind of view that you find particularly in educated circles, among business elites, among educated people, among a range of people who believe that we have become, or are becoming, citizens of the world. Our allegiances are to a kind of global humanity and we owe no particular allegiance to the individual states of which we are members. We see that in the enthusiasm, particularly among young people, and it’s just the admirable in many ways, I’m not discounting, but they’re admirable goals to work for international NGOs, to become part of Doctors Without Borders, to think of global concerns like the environment and other things. Again, absolutely real, but the tendency is to downplay or to minimize the role of their identity as citizens, as citizens of a country rather than global citizens of the world.

The other extreme is nationalism and that of course has, in the last five or six years or more, even maybe more, become a very potent force throughout the world. In the US too, including the US. We’ve seen nationalism arising in China, in Turkey, in Russia, certainly in places like Brazil, and many other places. Nationalism is a very potent course of political identity, but different from patriotism, I want to argue. They are often linked, but one of the things I try to do in my book is to decouple them. They grow out of a common root. Nationalism and patriotism are not opposite as it’s sometimes said. They are not opposite. They grow out of a common root. That root is to have your way of life and your culture and so on to be strong and respected, natural and within limits, understandable and admirable quality. But patriotism and nationalism are growing out of a common root but move in different directions.

Nationalists see the country as the only source of their identity. And then this is very easy for it to become coupled with feelings of anger, resentment, and most dangerously the attempt to identify enemies beginning often with the foreign enemies, but then always becoming domestic enemies, domestic others who are seen to present some kind of existential challenge to the national identity. And it is this kind of friend enemy logic that I think invariably grows out of the nationalist mindset, the nationalist imagination, that is quite different from the patriotic disposition that I try to defend in my book. But those are the two, I think, challenges that kind of frame the debate as I see it.

Richard Reinsch (06:58):

Do you see, as I read your book, it seems to me also nationalism arising from perceived excesses of, let’s say, humanitarianism, or sort of downplaying what I think would be legitimate interest of the nation. And I think about Brexit. When the Brexit campaign was happening, I saw good arguments on either side for that position. And I ultimately thought, “Well, if the people come out and vote at like 70% and they vote 52%, then I would respect that vote.” But I also said that this belief that the European Union was just ever increasing and some of their statesmen actively downplay I think what I would call a legitimate interest of the nation. And so you get nationalism arising from that, but that in turn feeds it’s opposite.

Steven Smith (08:04):

Well, let me say, I discuss, I’m certainly not an expert on the EU, but it comes out for some discussion in my book. And I do think the debate about Brexit and I listened to it and followed it. There were powerful arguments on both sides. But I do think the EU is seeing what is or was… The EU is now becoming terribly fractured. But it was seen by many, sort of in the heyday of its ascendancy, as sort of a model of this kind of notion of trans national or trans political citizenship or sovereignty or something. A seamless world of open borders, of common currency, of free trade. It had many dimensions, many of them quite valuable and useful but it created aspirations and dreams and ideals that cannot be satisfied. And this movement was always combined, as you pointed out, with a heavy handed bureaucratic apparatus that really ended up, in many ways, overriding people’s national institutions, their loyalties.

They were told they are members of Europe. What is that? And so there was always this tension between, in many ways, the aspiration and, again, the bureaucratic apparatus in which those aspirations were enfolded. So the EU is one example of how exactly this kind of tendency towards cosmopolitanism and to believe that we are now outgrowing the nation state as the basis of our political identity and show how this can go wrong. Let me just say before I sound like I’m simply in the camp of the EU skeptics or the anti EU, I am not.

And why do I say that? Because the EU, for everything that is questionable about it, they’ve done one very important thing that I don’t think we can entirely forget, and that is it has managed and still managed to maintain the peace in a continent that was the most violent continent of the last century, certainly the last century, and perhaps even the most violent continent in all of recorded history. The world wars, the Holocaust, the ethnic cleansings that European States imposed on one another were just terrible blemishes on humanity. And the EU has rose to respond to that and to some degree it’s very admirably pacified many of these aggressive European tendencies. So that is nothing to sneeze at. And so I just want to mention that. It’s something that I think deserves to be said about the EU, whatever its other failings.

Richard Reinsch (11:11):

Yeah, that’s well said. Although it does seem to me now and the history of, you recounted it well and all of its wars, it does seem to me… when I think about Europe in many ways, it’s sort of a lethargic continent now. I was reading recently by 2007 the economy of the European Union was largely on par with America’s, but what’s happened in the last 14 years is it’s barely grown and the American economy has grown and we’ve sort of moved beyond them in a lot of ways. And a lot of people thought the EU economy would overtake us. And then of course now our big concern is China and what it’s doing. And I could produce a lot of examples, demographics. Where Europe just seems, although it was this tremendous dynamo, to me, it just seems sort of like a large vacation park at this point.

Steven Smith (12:11):

I agree. I don’t want to sit here and opine about the future of Europe-

Richard Reinsch (12:16):

No …

Steven Smith (12:16):

… I don’t know, but two devastating world wars within a 50 year span can do a lot to take the life out of a people.

Richard Reinsch (12:26):

Yeah, that’s true.

Steven Smith (12:27):

I don’t know. I hear what you’re saying and what you say is probably right in some respects.

Richard Reinsch (12:32):

You have an interesting epigraph here and I thought it might be a way to get into a question that I’ve got for you, which is you said patriotism is a virtue. And I think that’s at the center of the controversy. You have the epigraph, “I am an American, Chicago born. From Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March.” Can you elaborate more on that for us?

Steven Smith (12:53):

Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for mentioning that. I’m glad you caught that because that epigraph means a lot to me. Why? First, I’ve been a more or less lifelong admirer, lover, of Saul Bellow’s literature. That famous opening sentence, “I’m an American, Chicago born,” first sentence, opening sentence, of The Adventures of Augie March captured something to me, not just of the spirit of that novel, but of me. I also am an American, Chicago born, and I lived away from Chicago for many, many years. More than half my life has been spent in New Haven where I live now. But this identification with a place I think is very important. It shaped me to a considerable… For good or bad. I don’t necessarily simply have a kind of rosy nostalgic image of the place where I grew up. I don’t at all, really. But we are shaped by our past, by our histories, our family histories, our national history and I thought that statement, that sentence, captured something pretty important about that. It did to me, at least.

Richard Reinsch (14:12):

It reminded me of the opening of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs. He says, “My people are American.” That’s always resonated with me. When I read that sentence I always thought, “That’s something new, I would think, in American life at that time,” that you think of this as an American civilization and your people being shaped by it.

Steven Smith (14:30):

Yes, and Augie March is a very American story. Of course, the difference between him and Grant is Grant traces his ancestors back to the Puritans, back to the real founders. Bellow’s Augie March is like Bellow himself, is the child of immigrants. I am the grandchild of immigrants. So there’s a kind of vibrancy about this too. And the title of the book, The Adventures, it shows that this is a kind of a picaresque novel, an adventure. It’s an adventure story in some ways. And I think that’s very much the American story.

I’ve been emphasizing and reemphasizing here this aspirational or creedal dimension of American patriotism. But in many ways that’s only one side of the coin. And I argue in different ways in the book that patriotism is, like all virtues in many ways, patriotism is a matter of both the head and the heart. It is both an intellectual virtue, based upon understanding of our founding documents and the principles for which we stand. But it’s also a matter of the heart and it’s also connected to loyalty.

And I hope I tried to capture in my understanding of patriotism that it’s an adventure. It has an aspirational quality to it. And that to me is very much one of the things that distinguishes patriotism from nationalism also is this sense of aspiration and adventure. It’s not just a land and soil ideology. It’s not just America first, it’s not simply, “My country right or wrong.” There is an ideal and an adventure and a creed to it that makes, I think, American patriotism unique.

Richard Reinsch (15:46):

Let’s talk more about that. In your book, you talk about the elements of American patriotism. Talk about that because as we think about patriotism, you said it’s a disposition, a virtue. So there has to be a common thread there. It can’t just be purely an adventure.

Steven Smith (16:03):

Sure. No, no, absolutely. There is a core, a broadly defined core, that for generations was called, very loosely, the American Creed. What is the American Creed? It was not anything formulated necessarily in a document or legal text of any kind, but it was a set of beliefs and ideas growing out of our founding documents that shape what it is to be an American. For example, let me just mention three, our commitment to equality, going back most famously to the equality clause in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.” We are all endowed with a certain basic dignity that is worthy of respect.

That egalitarian impulse is a very important aspect of American patriotism. What does equality mean? In part, it means there are no more aristocrats, no more monarchs and aristocrats. It is an open field. It’s an open field for all of us to rise or fall. It’s a field of rights that we have liberties and rights that are essential to that. And once again, these are aspirational that, as Lincoln points out, probably most famously in his speech on the Dred Scott case, that our aspirations to equality and dignity have not been fully achieved. They are constantly being labored for, being worked upon, being, in a sense, a work in progress. But this idea that we are creedal nation, a creedal people, and be a core of the idea of some of our best students of American politics. Let me just mention three of those students, Samuel Huntington, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Martin Diamond. All of them saw this sense of creedal peoplehood as central to America and that’s in part what my book is an attempt to reestablish.

Richard Reinsch (18:14):

Yeah, and as I read that, you think about what country has something like the House Committee on Un-American Activities? Obviously, there’s a creedal idea of America that could also be used in various ways. Thinking about that creedal concept, is that enough, I guess was my question for you? And I guess I say is that enough, because as I think about the human person, I think about our relationships with others, our communities, communities of moral worth and meaning that we find. It’s a long conversation, but I think that’s a huge problem now in America is I think a lot of people look around them and don’t see communities they want to join, or they feel abandoned in various ways. And then what about memories and battles, ways in which people attach themselves to the country? How does the creedal concept incorporate those things?

Steven Smith (19:09):

A great point, Richard, and it’s one that I work on in the book. I’ve been emphasizing and reemphasizing here this aspirational or creedal dimension of American patriotism. But in many ways that’s only one side of the coin. And I argue in different ways in the book that patriotism is, like all virtues in many ways, patriotism is a matter of both the head and the heart. It is both an intellectual virtue, based upon understanding of our founding documents and the principles for which we stand. But it’s also a matter of the heart and it’s also connected to loyalty.

I spent a lot of time in the book talking about what is loyalty and how is loyalty a virtue associating it, as you were calling out these ideas of membership and being a part of something, patriotism isn’t just or can’t be exhausted by our aspirations, although it’s that. But it’s also an appreciation very much rooted in ideas about appreciation, of gratitude. It’s a term that I used at times throughout the book, is a sense of gratitude. Being a patriot is, in many ways, I say like being a member of a family. And here I think that helps us also distinguish patriotism from nationalism. We have been shaped by our families. For better or worse, we’ve been shaped by our families, but we love our families. We usually do, some of us it’s another story. We usually love our families. It would be absurd to say, “My family is better than your family. My family first.” No, in many ways, we love our families because of their imperfections. That’s what makes our families, in some ways, but they have shaped us.

And I think patriotism is a virtue, it’s a loyalty virtue, like family membership that is rooted in loyalty and gratitude for shaping who we are. Yet at the other side of it, I call it the head and the heart. I think I used two fancy Greek terms in the book. I speak of logos and ethos, reason, logos, and ethos is character. And I do speak of patriotism, is a character shaping virtue. It is the virtue of character, it shapes who we are. I cite a famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who says, “Our ethos, our character, is our destiny.” That may be a bit too strong, but I do think he captures the quality of what I call ethos patriotism which I think is the way I sort of interpret what you were trying to bring out. I think it is a very strong component in what I think of as the patriotic disposition.

Richard Reinsch (22:09):

You said loyalty. And I agree with you, we struggle with that, contemporaries, we struggle with that idea of being loyal to something. And you discuss in the book, I’ll say, two of our leading cosmopolitans, Martha Nussbaum and George Kateb, who both in various ways, and you could talk about it more, seem to argue patriotism is an affront to enlightenment principles of liberty. Why? Well, it’s because of this loyalty thing. It’s because of the dispositional thing, “I don’t get to choose. I don’t get to be a willing agent of my self development. I’m sort of with everyone else by virtue of where I’ve been born and all of that history and what all those people think and I don’t get to be me.” And what’s really me is to be transactional with a lot of other people across borders around the world, around civilizations, and to have sort of this menu of things I can choose from. That’s very attractive. And from what I’m reading, it’s very attractive to people in their twenties and thirties. They want to live their lives like this.

But, of course, Roger Scruton always would talk about this and the claim would be patriotism is subject to xenophobia, but there’s also an oikophobia here too I think we could discuss, or fear of home, hatred of home. And I thought maybe you might address those concerns. I don’t think you’re saying ethos and character is destiny. I think you’re also saying, particularly with regard to American patriotism, it’s contested and we argue about it. And even the elements you list of American patriotism, it’s an ongoing argument. We can lose balance. Say egalitarianism runs amuck. You say that’s an important American value, I agree, and it starts to win out and we lose a lot of other things. So I just wanted to throw all that in.

Steven Smith (23:59):

You probably said it, at least as well, better than I would. I’m glad you mentioned the article. I got an email the other night from George Kateb congratulating me for the book and also expressing disappointment that I don’t see things his way. I said, “George, what the hell. The argument is better than the agreement.” So anyway, George is a great man. I unhesitatingly say that, I do, even though we passionately disagree on the nature of the subject. And he’s right, there is much in the American experience that he draws on, going back to Emerson, going back to sort of the American transcendentalism, that was the first movement to really to give voice to this kind of free wheeling individualism that we have. In many ways, once again, it’s an admirable quality of Americans, our individualism, our sort of sense that nobody can tell me what to do, or that we want to figure things out for ourselves, we shouldn’t be constrained simply to live in the way that our parents lived if we don’t want to.

This is, in many ways, a crucial part of America and one that I think is invaluable. I very much appreciate that claim yet, I would say, and I think we were getting into this a little while ago, that is only part of the story. In many ways, this kind of expressive individualism that Thoreau and others have, they presented it as a heroic disposition, the ability to break free custom and tradition, to live as you like, these are cliches today. But there was originally something heroic in the model of how to live in a certain way. It’s not to say that most of us aren’t heroes in that way, but it is say that many of us in fact find meaning in the way we’ve been brought up, in the traditions we’ve inherited, in the customs and habits that have formed and shaped us.

Most people don’t feel a need to challenge and to resist the courses of history, tradition, and family and customs. So we have to find a way to hold those two together. If you want to bring this up to the moment, in some ways, I think what we’re witnessing today in much of our culture, in politics, is the outgrowth of a kind of angry libertarianism that says basically, “Nobody has the right to tell me what to do.” That is not a good formula for society. It may work in some occasions and in some contexts for individuals, but as members of a society it’s not a useful, to put it mildly, it’s not a useful formula. And I think a lot of this, I would say, angry libertarianism we see expressed in the response to COVID, that’s it’s a conspiracy, “Nobody can tell me that I should put on a mask,” or something. We live in a society and that requires that we make certain sacrifices. It seems to be pretty minimal to me, but for many people it’s an affront to their liberty. And I think that’s one of the dangerous sides of the kind of what they call abstract individualism that is very much a part of the American character.

Richard Reinsch (27:53):

Thinking here, angry libertarianism. There’s also this notion too of to make patriotism work it requires enough of us who disagree with one another. To put things like law and the nation and, I’ll say, the Constitution or being constitutional people that that is above everything else. That’s above who’s going to win an election because what we know is probably the next election, the other side is going to lose or the following election and so we’re able to live with those results. We’re able to live with say some laws being passed that we don’t like because we know there’s probably going to be a reversal. And that’s how I have looked at a lot of things, and this is a very dour look, even that sort of formal consensus breaks down. And I think that’s really at the essence of patriotism or, I’ll say, a humane loyalty to your country that there are things we just don’t question because we acknowledge that it’s so good. It’s not that we’re ignorant, or silly, or are not educated well. We just know these are good things and so that must be unquestionable. And that itself is now in dispute. So I see a lot of the COVID stuff happening like this basic distrust, not that the government at times doesn’t earn it, but this sort of a basic distrust out there you see and I think that fuels a lot of this stuff.

Steven Smith (29:21):

I couldn’t agree more with the way you just framed the issue. I think it is a matter of patriotism that it requires trust. It requires stability. There are a series of kind of qualities that it embraces. It also requires a sense of our own fallibility, an awareness that we may be wrong or at least what we believe is maybe only partially true. These are qualities that are essential to a decent society and have been eroded with the talk about the sources for the erosion of social trust, and this kind of ethos, as I call it, the glue in a certain way for what binds people together and what makes patriotism possible. And a lot of sociologists, political scientists, have talked about this in kind of more empirical ways in recent years.

I think probably most famously, remember Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, the decline of associations in America kind of resulting in atomization. That was written back in the nineties or maybe the early 2000s where we hadn’t really seen the full consequences of the breakdown of what happens with that atomization.

I totally believe in the Treaty of Westphalia solution. We live in a world of states and states are defined by borders and they have the right to determine who’s in and who’s out. Of course, you can determine that broadly or narrowly. But I very much believe that, that is the basis of our stability.

And I think what happens with it is not just people no longer join with others, it leads to a breakdown of trust among people, among neighbors, among citizens. And that breakdown of trust leads us to see others as enemies, in some ways. They are not just others to us, they are enemies. And this is, more and more, I fear the world we are living in. And the question in the book, if I knew how to restore this I guess I would win the Nobel Prize or something, but it is trying to find both institutions, but also not just institutions, habits of hearts and minds that will restore the conditions for a decent patriotism.

Richard Reinsch (31:19):

I agree wholeheartedly there. I just think too, in the past year, we’ve had these sorts of jarring experiences, obviously, with COVID being one. And it seems to be our political class, every conflict we get and they manage to find the most intense way to come at it, and so things can’t be negotiated or compromised and that sort of drives things. So I look around my neighborhood, which no one has any reason really to be that upset about much. I see neighborhood signs with, “I believe in Peter Fauci.” I see signs about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are suburbanites in Indianapolis, you’re this plugged into politics? This just sort of being someone who is interested in politics, is most people for most of my life have not really cared and think that I’m kind of weird for caring so much. And now this is upfront in everyone’s mind, not in a good way.

I do think in terms of patriotism, something that most nations struggle with, particularly in the West is the harder question of borders and immigration. And that’s obviously very contested and has been for much of American history. How does the American patriot think about immigration?

Steven Smith (32:33):

Yeah, that’s something I talk about in the book and, like most people, I don’t have an answer to it. There’s not a simple answer to it. Just state the obvious. We are a nation of immigrants, not to say the history of immigration has been a happy one. We have not always welcomed the immigrant. “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” this was not always the way immigrants were treated, going back to the early part of the Republic. But we are a nation of immigrants.

And the question is, how does a society like ours both balance diversity, ethnic, racial diversity, immigrants, new immigrants, new people to the table with a sense that we are still one people in a way, “E Pluribus Unum,” out of many, one? That balance between to kind of put it in high falutin philosopher’s terms, how to combine the one and the many, how to do that? If we say our borders are endlessly open, everybody’s welcome in all at once, we lose our ethos. We lose any sense of who we are as a people. But if we begin to say, “We’re filled up, no more,” or very few, then we are in danger of losing our humanity. And I would only say, there’s not an algorithm for determining it, it’s just a willingness to people, our leadership class, to compromise on these issues. Immigrants can be a source of new blood-

Richard Reinsch (34:24):

Yeah, new businesses.

Steven Smith (34:26):

New ways. And at the same time we live in a world with borders, I very much believe that. I totally believe in the Treaty of Westphalia solution. We live in a world of states and states are defined by borders and they have the right to determine who’s in and who’s out. Of course, you can determine that broadly or narrowly. But I very much believe that, that is the basis of our stability. And again, I would say, you ask maybe the hardest question facing American public policy or legislation today on this question of immigration. It’s so powerful and it’s so potent on all sides. It requires statesmanship. It requires state craft, statesmanship, compromise, and willingness to stop demonizing each other.

Richard Reinsch (35:20):

No, I think that’s well said. Another hard question, maybe less controversial… Well, equally controversial, but not in the public eye as much. And this is something that I think Nussbaum and your friend George Kateb would point to are conflicts between our loyalties and how do those get settled? And does patriotism not offer a fulfilling settlement? Speaking of our country, our family, for many of us, our religious faith, and our conscience. And those do come into conflict. And so how does the patriot think about these conflicts?

Steven Smith (35:56):

Wonderful question. I have a section of the book going back to our earlier theme of our discussion when I talked about conflict of loyalties. When in fact patriotism comes in conflict, love of country, with other duties or loyalties that we inhabit, my favorite example, I used a few, but I’ll just mention my favorite, is the one that Lincoln encountered.

I should say for those who haven’t read the book, Lincoln figures prominently in it. In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln was visited in the White House by a lady named Mrs. Eliza Gurney, a Quaker. She came as the head of kind of a Quaker delegation. And Lincoln very much appreciated the visit. Not because she was coming to hector him about something, but they wanted to pray with him. And the Quakers were in a difficult dilemma because they were antislavery. They favored emancipation and anti-slavery and yet at the same time, we know they are anti war. And Lincoln appreciated that dilemma. How, if they fall on one side of the equation, they cannot support the war effort. If they fall on the other side of the equation, they seem to be in violation of their religious beliefs. It’s a painful moral conflict.

And Lincoln sent her a beautiful letter stating to the effect, stating that dilemma very beautifully and saying something to the effect that, “I have and will do all I can as commander in chief to honor both sides of that.” But he admitted, more or less, that even Lincoln couldn’t figure out which of the sides was right and what to do. That was going to be left obviously to each person, each member of the Quaker faith, to have to work out for themselves. So that was a very powerful example, a real world example, of that kind of very, very serious conflict of duties between patriotism and, in this case, religious fidelity. There are others too. I consider some examples from literature, some from film. There’s a wonderful scene in The Godfather, one of my favorite films, that it deals with exactly this question. In that particular instance, it’s a conflict between family loyalty and loyalty to country. Things are real.

And that’s why I say patriotism is a contested virtue. I also deal with the question of patriotism and protest. There are issues, not only when we have a conflict of obligations as it were, the kind that I was just talking about, but then there’s questions is it ever patriotic to protest? We hear this almost as a cliche. It is a cliche, “Protest is patriotic.” Well, my answer is yes and no. Like so many things in politics, it depends on the context. So I try to sort that out a little bit as well. But my point being in general, patriotism does not automatically just trump every other loyalty and obligation that we have. It is, as I say, contested. And it’s probably a good thing too. It remains and always will remain a contested virtue.

Richard Reinsch (39:33):

But at the same time, one we can’t do without. Steven Smith, thank you so much for your time. We’ve been talking with the author of Reclaiming Patriotism in an Age of Extremes.