[This release date for my new book, Of Thee I Sing: The Contested History of American Patriotism, has been pushed back a bit, but I don't know there's ever been a more important moment to talk about patriotism. So this week I’ll use portions of the book’s Introduction to briefly highlight each of my four categories of American patriotism, leading up to a special post on my goals for the project over the next couple months—and how you all can help!]
Here are two spots in the intro where I define my first category, celebratory patriotism (which is I believe what we most often mean when we use the term, although it too often slips into the more exclusionary second category about which I’ll write tomorrow):
1) “What underlies such attacks on Vindman’s truth-telling as unpatriotic is a definition of patriotism that equates it with a celebration of the nation. Summed up by phrases like “my country, right or wrong” and “America: love it or leave it,” this celebratory form of patriotism suggests that anything other than a full embrace of the nation, a vision of America as “the greatest country in the world,” is unpatriotic. That celebratory patriotism is embodied in shared communal rituals: the singing of the national anthem with hat in hand and hand on heart; the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by schoolchildren at the start of each day; the closing of speeches with “God bless the United States of America.” Out of such everyday rituals, scholar Michael Billig argues in his book Banal Nationalism (1995), a sense of national belonging and community is constructed. Those rituals and that community are at least potentially inclusive, able to be shared by all Americans, but in this form of patriotism they do require from their participants an endorsement of the celebratory vision of the nation.”
2) “Each of my four focal forms of patriotism can also be found in one of the four verses of Wellesley College English Professor Katharine Lee Bates’ iconic lyrics for one of our most prominent national cultural works: “America the Beautiful.” The song’s most famous first verse, often the only one performed, illustrates an overtly celebratory embrace of America’s beauties: “spacious skies,” “amber waves of grain,” “purple mountain majesties,” “the fruited plain.” Originally written as Bates traveled the United States by train in the early 1890s, these celebratory descriptions are based on actual elements of the landscape such as Colorado’s Pike Peak, but are given heightened, idealized form through her poetic images and perspective. And like most examples of American celebratory patriotism, this one is potentially inclusive, able to be shared by all who are part of and appreciate this beautiful place.”
Next patriotic category tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Examples of celebratory patriotism you’d share?