Ta-Nehisi Coates (who has become a favorite blogger of web-savvy American historians, myself included), wonders why liberals have such a hard time embracing civic virtue. He writes:
...a lot of the problem on the left is deep skepticism of patriotism. We see flags and we think of militarism, exclusion and nationalism. But if you’re going to involve yourself in the politics of your country you had better see more in its symbols and rituals than all its historical failings.
This is more than a cynical or utilitarian point. It’s also about the core mission of intellectual life–to see things as they are.
My point here is that when we hail ourselves as the “Land of the Free” it is not rooted in ether. It’s an actual thing. We worry about that kind of symbolism being employed by racist, militarists and demagogues. One way to ensure that outcome is to flee the field, to cede patriotism to people who talk of the “real Virginia.”
But that just strikes me as escapism. Aren’t all nations problems? Aren’t all families? Aren’t all people?
The answer to these questions is yes. And here Coates is coming to grips with the tragic and broken dimensions of life. These ideas are also things that good progressives do not like to talk about.
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