When asked about Pope Francis’s call to America for a welcoming immigration policy, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) perhaps unwittingly invoked a biblical trope used countless times in American Protestant churches. I call it the “American Nehemiad.”
The Sportsman Channel touts its newest series, Amazing America with Sarah Palin, in a three-minute video making the rounds on social media. The video, a recording by “the most patriotic band in America,” Madison Rising, contains rousing lyrics, while a variety of activities flash by in rapid succession: men fighting fires, men shooting guns, women shooting guns, men running with bulls, men riding down zip lines, cars racing, and Sarah Palin on a dogsled pulled by pink-booted sled dogs.
"Please stand and take off your hats for the singing of 'God
Bless America.'" That's how the announcer introduced the seventh inning stretch
at a recent Minnesota Twins game I attended. Minnesotans are nothing if not
rule followers, so we stood, many took off their hats, and some even joined in
During the height of the Vietnam War, Bill Moyers was President Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary. It was his responsibility to explain to the press and the world what was happening and why the U.S. was doing what it was doing. He was also present as the Johnson administration declared war on poverty, launched its Great Society programs and signed civil rights legislation.
I am unapologetically patriotic by temperament and upbringing. I sing the national anthem at Wrigley Field, get chills when the navy’s Blue Angels roar overhead at the Chicago Air Show, and fly the flag on the Fourth of July. I spent some time in the air force ROTC, and some of my classmates flew missions in Vietnam. I supported the U.S.
When war causes us to suppress our deepest religious and moral convictions, we cave in to a “higher religion” called war. Yes, there is beauty in patriotism, in its unselfishness and love of country. But this beauty makes for what Reinhold Niebuhr called the “ethical paradox in patriotism”—a tendency to transmute individual unselfishness into national egoism. When this happens, the critical attitude of the individual is squelched, permitting the nation to use “power without moral constraint.”
Many Americans have become born-again believers in patriotism since September 11, some to their own surprise. Writing the “My Turn” column in Newsweek, for instance, 20-something Rachel Newman confessed that before 9/11 she and her girlfriend had been talking about moving to another country because of the perceived inequalities in the U.S.
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