Dissent Magazine – Fall 2002 Issue – A Patriotic Left

Love of country was a demotic faith long before September 11, a fact that previous lefts understood and attempted to turn to their advantage. In the United States, Karl Marx’s dictum that the workers have no country has been refuted time and again.

An earlier version of American patriotism was a forerunner of the modern genre: pride in the first nation organized around a set of social beliefs rather than a shared geography and history. In its novelty, Americanism gave citizens of the new republic both a way to understand and to stand for purposes that transcended their self-interest.

For American leftists, patriotism was indispensable. It made their dissent and rebellion intelligible to their fellow citizens-and located them within the national narrative, fighting to shape a common future.

A SELF-CRITICAL conception of patriotism also led Americans on the left to oppose their leaders’ aggressive policies abroad.

Having abandoned patriotism, the left lost the ability to pose convincing alternatives for the nation as a whole. It could take credit for spearheading a multicultural, gender-aware revision of the humanities curriculum, but the right set the political agenda, and it did so in part because its partisans spoke forcefully in the name of American principles

to rail against patriotic symbols is to wage a losing battle-and one that demeans us and sets us against the overwhelming majority of Americans for no worthwhile moral or political purpose.

Instead, leftists should again claim, without pretense or apology, an honorable place in the long narrative of those who demanded that American ideals apply to all

via Dissent Magazine – Fall 2002 Issue – A Patriotic Left.


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