Patriotism is small

Bill Kauffman’s 2014 Campaign for Liberty speech about “rescuing the color and vitality of home” is really good. It expresses, more or less, my sense of patriotism, which I think has to be a patriotism of rootedness and smallness and pride, rather than our contemporary patriotism of burdened ambition and ego:

If you believe, as I do, that rootlessness is one of the great maladies afflicting our lorn and lovely land, then reasserting the importance of place in American life becomes the antidote. America is the sum of ten thousand and one little, individuated places, each with its own character and stories. A politician who understands this will act in ways that protect and preserve these real places. She will ask the question that never gets injected into national debates over the wisdom of American policy: What are the domestic costs? Loving her block, she will not wish to bomb Iraq. Loyal to a neighborhood, she will not send its young men and women across the oceans to kill and die for causes wholly unrelated to local life.

A rootless politico will babble on about “the homeland”—a creepy totalitarian phrase that, before George W. Bush, was never applied to our country. …

The American Empire is run by the people in gray. There’s no poetry in them: no heart, no soul. The America of Dorothy Day and Zora Neale Hurston and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Johnny Appleseed and Crazy Horse and Jack Kerouac and volunteer fire departments and craft breweries and country churches—that’s ours; that’s the vital America. That’s the country worth loving—and that’s the country of liberty and local community, neighborliness and peace. …

I am a patriot. And I love my country. And this country is only healthy insofar as its little pieces are healthy. Lowell, Massachusetts. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Batavia, New York. Red Cloud, Nebraska. Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I saw the distinct identity—the meaning—of my own place fading and that’s why I raised my voice.

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