The Subtext to Crider’s Liberal Patriotism

On these pages, Paul Crider explores what might be best described as Liberal Patriotism. While you should read the entire post, Crider distills it down to a concise rendering when he notes,

Patriotism can instead be carefully cultivated to channel liberal values and this liberal patriotism has to be vigorously peddled in the marketplace of ideas and proudly defended the arena of political discourse. Luckily we don’t have to reinvent wheel: we already have narratives of America (I’m sticking with my own country for this post) as an ongoing project of tolerance, inclusion, and opportunity.

I am in agreement with Crider, but there is an important subtext to the parenthetical phrase, limiting the comments to just the United States. The United States is a unique country because its identity is ideological. The American Project is just that, a continual project, an unfinished draft. If nothing else, the United States is exceptional for this reason. No other country is so closely tied to an ideological construction. No other country is really as invested in its rhetorical construction.

Seymour Martin Lipset illustrates this nicely near the beginning of his book on American Exceptionalism,

In Europe, nationality is related to community, and thus one cannot become un-English or un-Swedish. Being an American, however, is an ideological commitment. It is not a matter of birth. Those who reject American values are un-American.

Eric Foner’s exploration of freedom illustrates this point nicely as well. “Far from being fixed,” he explains, “the definition of freedom is the subject of persistent conflict in American history.” The invocation of the term served as a rallying cry for the American Revolution just as it frames our debate about abortion today. To repeat an often-cited phrase from his book, the story of freedom echoes the American Project, in that it “is not a mythic saga with a predetermined beginning and conclusion, but an open-ended history of accomplishment and failure, a record of a people forever contending about the crucial ideas of their political culture.”

Crider is right to cabin his remarks to the US. It is probably the only place where Liberal Patriotism might work.

One thought on “The Subtext to Crider’s Liberal Patriotism

  1. pxdelaney

    Very interesting, and one of the reasons that I think of America as a place that is, in terms of its political/ideological structure at least, friendlier to immigration than many others – the demands it makes of new citizens are *only* political, not cultural or religious. Even other anglophone nations have such cultural/ethnic versions of nationalism that it’s hard, if not impossible, for newcomers to assimilate even if they want to. Australia has the rhetoric of “un-Australian” but without a clear set of political beliefs that constitute “Australian”, it starts to sound a lot like a xenophobic dog whistle.

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