Mark Twain famously said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.”
I wonder the extent the younger generations understand this important distinction.
A new poll conducted by YouGov reveals the attitudes of Americans towards the US Flag and feelings of patriotism.
The poll reveals younger Americans are generally less patriotic and revere the US Flag less than their parents and grandparents. This may spell trouble for a nation founded not on any physical attribute or link to geographic area, but on ideals. If support for the Founding ideals of such a nation erodes, so too does the prospects for a unified future.
The decrease in patriotism may be due to a combination of factors. On the one hand, younger generations are being led into leftist-oriented, anti-American worldviews that see our Founding principles as inherently problematic. On the other hand, some younger people may still revere our general principles, our culture, and our traditions but get disillusioned with real and/or perceived injustices within society, leading to blame of the whole for failure in specific instances.
Both of these hands belong to the same spectre; intellectual critiques of our Founding principles can be directly addressed but the “throw the baby out with the bath water” phenomenon is what is really problematic. It is generally promoted by individuals or groups that present themselves as well meaning, luring naive youth into their spheres of influence with promises of fast change or “progress” on hot button issues while at the same time corrupting the fundamental structures that allow for more meaningful, albeit sometimes slower moving, progress on solving practical problems.
The protests of the US flag and national anthem begun by former football player Colin Kaepernick over perceived police brutality and racial injustice are a good example of this. Such protests are popular among the younger generations. To the extent there remains racial injustice and police brutality towards minorities in America, it is perfectly fine to oppose and protest these occurrences. It can even be regarded as a duty to do so. But is the US flag in general the proper target? Do the Founding principles of our nation inherently support such activity? Does any official policy or law of the United States sanction such practice in the modern era? The answer is a resounding no, and past injustices were in fact remedied through the system the flag represents, further disproving the notion it is inherently flawed. This is not to say there are not incidents or lingering effects of past injustice or problems with implementing current policy at all. But in general those would be exceptions to the standards and principles that the flag represents.
So the flag is not the proper target; using it as a punching bag “to raise awareness” is not only improper, but also counterproductive; it is eroding trust and confidence in that which will actually be instrumental to real solutions towards the injustices the protesters claim to be fighting.
Flag-kneelers ought to ask themselves why anti-abortion advocates, for instance, do not kneel in protest of the flag being flown or anthem being sung before sporting events. After all, unlike police brutality, abortion is still officially sanctioned by law in many jurisdictions. Whether or not young people believe abortion is morally wrong, the point is they ought to recognize that anti-abortion advocates do not resort to such tactics specifically because it is the wrong target. The flag represents for most of them the principles and protections they are fight for to be applied to the unborn, even if the authorities in the country itself still allow for the legal violation of those principles in their view.
We must communicate the idea promoted by Mark Twain in the quote at the beginning of this article if we want to reaffirm America’s just principles into the minds of the newer generations. Ours is not a country of government worship; we ought to be patriotic in support of our principled nation and critical of the authorities when they stray from and violate said principles.