PATRIOTISM

Independence Day Reflections

Patriotism

Independence Day Reflections

by Fr. Frederick Edlefsen

 

The United States is history’s only country founded upon a principle of “self-evident” and “unalienable” human rights.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  This line from Preamble of the Declaration of Independence is among the best known in the English language.  It proposed something universal about human nature and human rights.  This principle informed another “Declaration”, the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948).  Its Preamble begins, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”   If we reflect on these passages from the US’s and UN’s Declarations, we’ll see the global significance of American “patriotism.”

“Patriotism” derives from the Latin “patria”, which means “fatherland”.   Moreover, we are “human”, which means “from the land (earth)”.  “Patriotism” is about “humans” gratefully loving their fatherland and their mother earth (the world).  It’s an aspect of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother – the first Commandment with a promise – so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). 

Patriots love their fatherland.   And, by extension, they love all fatherlands because they love all people who love their nation.   Patriots acknowledge ancestral sins (everyone has them) and celebrate ancestral virtues.  Patriotism flows from what Alexis de Tocqueville called “mores” – “habits of the heart” – which form a social character.   For example, the social virtues of neighborliness and justice are rooted in this.   A true patriot grasps, in mind and heart, the universality of “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and “of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Patriotism flows from the grace of a cultured heart, which obeys the Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  It’s also prophetic.   It prepares all peoples for a common destiny, to be citizens of Heaven “from every nation, tribe, race, and tongue…” (Revelation 7:9).  

 

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