What does patriotism mean to you?

ILYM Friend David Finke was profiled last week as part of the Columbia Missourian’s coverage: “Boone County residents describe what patriotism means to them” (July 2, 2011).

David is elequently quoted throughout; here is an excerpt from his profile:

Finke is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a group otherwise known as the Quakers. He has made a “religious commitment” against war and violence, but he also noted that “to be for peace is more than being against war.”

“To uphold human dignity … is a moral obligation that for me stems both from patriotism and from my religious understanding,” he said.


Finke referenced a phrase in the first sentence of the U.S. Constitution: “in order to form a more perfect union.” America, he said, is “not yet perfected.”

I am pleased with much of, but not all, that America stands for. And I will continue to work to make it better: to live up to the dream and the promise.

Finke said he will display his American flag on the Fourth of July because “this should be a symbol that drives the U.S. to be our very best.”

It is always a special moment when the philosophy of Friends is shared with a wider audience, through a contribution such as this.  Check out the rest of David’s profile here.

What does July 4th mean for you, dear Friend? What reflection have you taken on today? What does patriotism mean to you?  Please share your thoughts here.

6 thoughts on “What does patriotism mean to you?

  1. What may not have been apparent in this interview were the profound lessons in genuine patriotism which I gained in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s-70s. When we were doing voter registration work in rural West Tennessee (an AFSC project headquartered in Jackson, TN) in 1962, the basic texts for what we shared in workshops in small and large Black Churches (clearly the center of life for the residents!) were those classic phrses from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (including the all-important Bill of Rights and post-Civil-War Amendments.) These went hand-in-hand with the Biblical tradition of God’s siding with the oppressed, and leading captives out from slavery. And, it was clear that there was the need for sacrifice and the risk of suffering or even death. The litany of martyrs from the American South is ever with me.

    All of this pointed to a simultaneous sense of both hope and unfulfilled promise. The downtrodden were not alone, and it was with God that “We Shall Overcome,” hand-in-hand, Black and White together.

    This comes together again with elegant and compelling focus in Dr. King’s address at the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28, 1963. Most remember the phrases about “The Dream,” but far fewer remember or even have heard his extended metaphor about the “uncashed check,” which too often had bounced when Black Americans tried to claim those promises.

    King’s genius, in my experience, is that there is an inseparable link in his life and teachings between what it is to be a Christian and what it is to be an American claiming universal human rights.

    Whatever I said on this present patriotic occasion — in which I always want to move beyond the acts of treasonous behavior by colonials, and winning a war against England — must show my profound indebtedness to Dr. King, my best teacher (on earth in my lifetime, anyway.) http://fum.org/QL/issues/9901/finke.htm

    May we all, always, keep learning and teaching! -DHF

  2. Thank you for keeping your attention on the “more perfect union.” Referring to my earlier post, my vision of the more perfect union is the egalitarian society where peacefully agreed and applied universal national (world) service will be defined as “citizenship” and not as “conscription.” I’ve been to the mountaintop, and that is the promised land that mine eyes have seen.

  3. It seems apparent to me that this question (or query, depending on how seriously you sat with the idea of patriotism) is more challenging to answer that it initially appears. Committed to pushing for more dialogue here in this space however, I will actively participate even though I’m not too confident! I encourage others to share what they’re thinking…

    So I was reading E.J. Dionne’s column in The Washington Post (“What our Declaration really said”) and find myself really connected to the idea of “the public good.” I think my patriotism is expressed through my efforts towards a country that holds up the public good as an important priority.

  4. Friend David speaks my mind. My experiences, which trail his by about 5 years, are similar, if not as dramatic. When I was 20 I had the opportunity to live with a Black family in a Black westside neighborhood of Chicago. Those of us so placed were part of a Lutheran summer volunteer program called Prince of Peace Volunteers; POP-V for short. We studied Black American History, to which none of us was exposed in public school.

    Thus my entry into peacebuilding and humanitarian concerns was through this window into the inequities ofr the American systems which took part in ande allowed sometimes violent discrimination of Blacks in America. Once through that window the horizon broadened to include Native Americans and other ethnic groups who also suffered as a result of fear and racism. Peoples who were not accorded the rights guaranteed in the constitution.

    Most defrinitions of patriot read siilarly to this one; “One who loves his country, and zealously supports its authority and interests.” Patriots cheer and support the good and zealously work to mend and change the bad effrorts of their country. Speaking truth to power is necessary since governments are made up of individuals; and individuals err and do not always consider the good of all over the good of a small group of citizens.

    Patriotism requires vigilance.

  5. I’ve just looked again at that article quoting me, which kicked off this round of sharing. As diligent as the reporter was, she didn’t happen to include what I think was about the first thing I said to her.,

    It was to the effect that for me love of and loyalty to country is a third-order commitment.,.. it can never come first!

    The relation to our Creator and the demands upon (and opportunities for) our lives flowing from that fundamental Reality must precede all other relations and human institutions. Peter and the apostles put it most forcefully when (as reported in their encounter with Temple authorities forbidding them to preach) they declared, “We must obey God rather than man.” (Acts 5:27-29). That has always been the basis for my own Conscientious Objection to war.

    My second-order commitment in terms of loyalties would be to the whole Human Race itself: “My country is the world.” Actually, I see it as more than for humans alone — it has to do with the entire fabric of Life, in this delicately-balanced miracle which we are obliged to care for and treat with respect. “Love your Mother!”… and don’t foul your nest.

    Then (and only then) comes Nationality — the country in which we by accident of birth happened to end up in (some, of course, come after they’re born) and for which we can claim no credit or virtue on our own. Of course I love it… even as I may criticize it. When/if we claim our identity as Americans, we must simultaneously guard against xenophobia, jingoism, a mistaken sense of superiority, an absolutist “love it or leave it!” mentality. an arrogant position of “American Exeptionalsim” — and a host of other perversions which it’s all too easy to see, or get discouraged by.

    Do you know the hymn to the tune of “Finlandia,” often titled, “A Song of Peace”? It bespeaks my deepest patriotic feelings, subordinated to the religious awareness.

    Let us ponder these words:

    This is my song, oh God of all the nations,
    a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
    This is my home, the country where my heart is;
    here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
    but other hearts in other lands are beating
    with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

    My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
    and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
    But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
    and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
    This is my song, thou God of all the nations;
    a song of peace for their land and for mine.

    May truth and freedom come to every nation;
    may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
    that each may seek to love and build together,
    a world united, righting every wrong;
    a world united in its love for freedom,
    proclaiming peace together in one song.

    This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
    Thy kingdom come on earth thy will be done.
    Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
    And hearts united learn to live as one.
    Oh hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
    Myself I give thee; let thy will be done.

    (Stanzas 1 – 3 by Lloyd Stone, Stanza 4 by Georgia Harkness):

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *