“Patriotic protest” isn’t an original term. It has been around for a long time. The definition of patriotism is something we should be thinking about if we aren’t already. There are two (and possibly more definitions of patriotism). But whether we think about it or not, generally we subscribe to one of two versions.
THE DEFINITIONS OF PATRIOTISM
There is patriotic patriotism. Many folks have gotten behind this point of view. It’s the idea that if there is something wrong in society, it should be fixed. Look at parade and demonstration signs carefully. Occasionally you’ll see one that says, “Protest is patriotic.” Ask a random sampling of those attending the event, and chances are that the other definition of patriotism, “My country, right or wrong,” is more widespread during times of conflict and at Fourth of July ceremonies when militarism and forceful action is paraded into view.
DEFINING PATRIOTISM IS SPLITTING THIS NATION DOWN THE MIDDLE
It doesn’t have to be this way. Both positions can get confused and messy. People of varying and often opposite positions can be brought together or stand apart, depending on which perspective they favor.
Nationalism often finds comfort in “My country, right or wrong.” “Patriotic protest” can justify a wide range of positions as well. The point is that patriotism isn’t viewed the same way, and that our personal and internal positions often depend on numerous variables. Taking a position or acting to support one perspective or another on a specific issue usually has more than one reason behind it. Patriotism is one example.
PATRIOTIC PROTEST IS CALLED UPON OFTEN IN ISSUES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
One example is the women’s suffrage movement. In 1848, the drafters and supporters of the Declaration of Sentiments relied on the principle of “patriotic protest” when changing the wording of the Declaration of Independence to “all men and women are created equal.” The structure and wording of this document as an inspiration owes a great deal to “patriotic protest.”
Numerous thinkers and advocates of social justice over the decades and centuries have used the principles of “patriotic protest” as grounding for their arguments. Frederick Douglass is one example. There are also many specific examples in the gay rights movement, civil rights movement, contemporary rights issues, etc.
IN ESSENCE, PATRIOTISM IS RESPONSIBLE FOR JUSTIFYING MANY POINTS OF VIEW
Scratch the surface of women’s voting rights advocates and the same thing is true. But there are other issues and emotions involved. And patriotism as an argument has also been used as reasoning for those on the opposite side of fences to rationalize resistance to social change.
This is a discussion that takes up lots of space. So, stay tuned. We’re not done yet.
SuffrageCentennials.com has been publishing since 2013.