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On this 4th of July, I want to tell you about a man who not only had the courage to fight the darkest impulses of our nation, but who challenged Americans to use a different definition of “patriot” and “patriotism” than we have preferred both before and since.

For American liberals of the 1950s, Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Jr. was not merely a leader, but the living, breathing embodiment of their cause. In some ways, Stevenson can be compared to Barack Obama circa 2008 – a profoundly eloquent intellectual whose supporters loved him more for the vision he offered than the specific policies he sought to enact. “It would be hard to argue,” the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in 1956, “that the words of conservative Dwight D. Eisenhower… show a greater sense of the frailty of human striving or the tragedy of the human condition than those of liberal Adlai E. Stevenson.”  

It was in a similar vein – of the need to rise above the human penchant for fierce, but shallow posturing and thoughtlessness – that Stevenson would charge straight into the headwinds of the “Red Scare” and Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror. Going before the American Legion convention in August 1952, he dispensed with the usual paeans to patriotism that politicians give – and challenged Americans to a higher standard of “patriot”.

Those who endured the anxious moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis will remember Stevenson’s devastating exposure, in the highly charged atmosphere of the United Nations, of the Soviet Union’s deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba. Those with good memory or political knowledge will recall his desire to “talk sense to the American people” and his razor-sharp wit on the campaign trail. Stevenson, alas, had the misfortune of twice facing the Supreme Allied Commander. “The General”, as the media called Eisenhower was a virtual lock in 1952 and 1956, but the right-wing assault on Stevenson as an aloof elitist who couldn’t be trusted to fight the Cold War didn’t help matters. By the time the Eisenhower era ended, the potential offered by John F. Kennedy killed Stevenson’s White House aspirations.

Stevenson, the grandson of Grover Cleveland’s Vice-President, didn’t seek public office until 1948. Drafted by Democrats to run for Governor of Illinois, he ended up ousting the incumbent Republican in a landslide, possibly helping Harry Truman eke out a critical victory in the state. He enjoyed being Governor, and was popular with the public for promoting efficient and honest government. When a highly unpopular Truman bowed out of the 1952 Presidential race, he and many other leading Democrats urged Stevenson to run. Stevenson, for his part, wanted to stay as Governor. Only when he was drafted on the 3rd ballot of the Democratic National Convention did he agree to run. Stevenson electrified the Convention with his inspiring acceptance speech, saying that while he had not wanted the nomination, he would fight hard to deserve it.

He was going to have to fight hard if he had any chance of winning the general election. Not only was he up against the universally popular “Ike”, but the leaders of the anti-Communist witch-hunt known as the “Red Scare”. Stevenson, like other Cold War liberals supported the containment of the USSR, but this hardly satisfied right-wing demagogues like Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. “Adlai the Appeaser” was the chosen phrase of Richard Nixon, Eisenhower’s running mate – a heated accusation that equated the avoidance of demagoguery with the enabling of Adolf Hitler. In a period where thousands were arrested or publicly condemned as either Communists or Communist sympathizers, often without a shred of evidence, this charge had serious impact. The great playwright Arthur Miller, himself accused of Communist sympathies, penned “The Crucible” as an allegory to the atmosphere of hysteria engulfing the nation.  

Adlai Stevenson, even as he carried the Democratic Party banner into the 1952 election, was determined to stand against this dangerous tide.
When he was invited to address the American Legion convention in August 1952, he saw his chance to speak out against McCarthy, Nixon and the politics of fright. What he had in mind as his theme was hardly the kind of argument that Legion attendees – almost entirely survivors of the two World Wars – would want to hear. It would have been far easier – and much more feasible politically – for Stevenson to make soothingly bland remarks about America, national pride and the honor due to veterans. He chose an altogether different, and far more courageous, path. In front of America’s war heroes, he would challenge their mindset as “patriots”, extending that message to the nation as a whole.

On August 27th, Stevenson delivered what rhetorical scholars would call a Jeremiad. Named after the Old Testament prophet who spoke far and wide against the evils of his time, it is a style that identifies a major – but non-material – crisis affecting the nation or group, criticizes the target audience for insufficiently addressing the crisis (if at all), and urges them to turn their focus towards ending it. It is usually not a pleasant speech for an audience to hear. A great example of a Jeremiad is Robert F. Kennedy’s speech (note: PDF file) the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination, which greatly expounded on RFK’s call to “tame the savageness of man” the night before.

The first part of Stevenson’s speech reflected the muscular Cold War liberalism of Truman, Hubert Humphrey and Kennedy: “[M]any only partly understand or are loath to acknowledge,” he said, “that the costs of waging the [C] old [W] ar are but a fraction of the costs of hot war.”  Nothing particularly new or illuminating there; presumably the Legionnaires clapped in appreciation of his words.

Then he made his transition towards a daringly different theme:

The United States has very large power in the world today. And the partner of power-the corollary-is responsibility. It is our high task to use our power with a sure hand and a steady touch-with the self-restraint that goes with confident strength. The purpose of our power must never be lost in the fact of our power-and the purpose, I take it, is the promotion of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
What he said next was an eloquent, but direct retort to McCarthyism:
We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power-to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect to all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime-these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

Patriotism, I have said, means putting country before self. This is no abstract phrase, and unhappily, we find some things in American life today of which we cannot be proud.

[Emphasis mine]

After acknowledging that “I find it sobering to think that their [i.e. the right-wing] pressures might one day be focused on me”, Stevenson offered a blistering critique of those who had wrapped themselves in the flag as a tool to destroy or discriminate against those they hated:

There are men among us who use ''patriotism'' as a club for attacking other Americans. What can we say for the self-styled patriot who thinks that a Negro, a Jew, a Catholic, or a Japanese-American is less an American than he? That betrays the deepest article of our faith, the belief in individual liberty and equality which has always been the heart and soul of the American idea.

What can we say for the man who proclaims himself a patriot-and then for political or personal reasons attacks the patriotism of faithful public servants?...To me this is the type of ''patriotism'' which is, in Dr. Johnson's phrase, ''the last refuge of scoundrels.''

The anatomy of patriotism is complex. But surely intolerance and public irresponsibility cannot be cloaked in the shinning armor of rectitude and righteousness. Nor can the denial of the right to hold ideas that are different-the freedom of man to think as he pleases. To strike freedom of the mind with the fist of patriotism is an old and ugly subtlety.

[Emphasis mine]

The first paragraph saw Stevenson challenge the patriotism of those who embraced segregation, religious intolerance and – just 11 years after Pearl Harbor – the internment of loyal Americans on the basis of their ancestry. As if calling out a significant portion of the population for un-American behavior, he proceeded to condemn McCarthy (while not naming him, it was obvious who Stevenson was referring to) as a cynical hypocrite, at a time when the Wisconsin Senator was at the height of his popularity. He then turned his attention to defending freedom of expression, especially the right of American citizens to “think as [they] please” without fear of character assassination. “Let us also favor free enterprise for the mind,” Stevenson added, linking free speech to American capitalism and the postwar economic boom that was well underway.

After reaffirming his opposition to Communism, Stevenson warned the veterans against following the witch-hunt mindset that had emotionally and mentally scarred so many Americans:

Yet, as I have said before, we must take care not to burn down the barn to kill the rats. All of us, and especially patriotic organizations of enormous influence like the American Legion, must be vigilant in protecting our birth-right from its too zealous friends while protecting it from its evil enemies.

The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear breeds repression. Too often sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.

I could add, from any own experience, that it is never necessary to call a man a communist to make political capital. Those of us who have undertaken to practice the ancient but imperfect art of government will always make enough mistakes to keep our critics well supplied with standard ammunition.

There is no need for poison gas.

It is important to note that almost every politician in the early 1950s was seeking to embrace the cause of zealotry, to protect them from McCarthy’s accusations if nothing else. Senate critics of McCarthy’s rhetoric and tactics, like Millard Tydings and William Benton, were ousted from office, and their careers ended, in large part due to McCarthy’s public condemnations. Even Hubert Humphrey, a lifelong crusader for Civil Rights, felt he had to sponsor a bill in the United States Senate that banned the Communist Party.

For the Democratic Party’s nominee for President to not only refuse to join the witch-hunt, but openly condemn it, took guts. Even the hero of D-Day was unwilling to risk political backlash by opposing “Tail Gunner Joe” until McCarthy’s fall from grace was well underway.

Stevenson wasn’t finished, however. In a passage one could as easily apply to 2012 as 1952 (see the Texas Republican Party’s new platform that attacks “critical thinking skills”), he rebuked the right-wing assault on public education, particularly teachers and professors accused of Communist sympathies. “As a practical matter, we do not stop communist activity in this way,” he declared. “What we do is give the communists material with which to defame us. And we also stifle the initiative of teachers and depreciate the prestige of the teaching profession which should be as honorable and esteemed as any among us.”

The candidate then concluded his speech by returning to his previous theme of patriotism, urging the Legionnaires – and the nation by proxy – to aspire to a higher calling as Americans than the shallow baseness of the day.

Men who have offered their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of something; it is the love of something. Patriotism with the love of this Republic and of the ideal of liberty of man and mind in which it was born, and to which this Republic is dedicated.

With this patriotism-patriotism in its large and wholesome meaning-America can master its power and turn it to the noble cause of peace. We can maintain military power without militarism; political power without oppression; and moral power without compulsion or complacency. The road we travel is long, but at the end lies the grail of peace…We can pluck this flower, safety, from this nettle, danger. Living, speaking, like men – like Americans – we can lead the way to our rendezvous in a happy, peaceful world.
[Emphasis mine]

Perhaps Stevenson knew he had nothing to lose by speaking out as he did. Public polling simply confirmed with statistics what signals from the electorate had already made clear: Americans liked Ike, were far from wild about Harry Truman, and wanted a break from 20 straight years of Democratic government in the White House. As it happened, Ike won in a landslide, carrying every state outside the Old Confederacy and breaking the “Solid South” as well. He would beat Stevenson by even more in 1956, when the Democrat fully embraced an ambitious liberal agenda that, in large part, would be enacted by Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. “The liberal hour” of the 1960s came too late for the man who courageously kept the flame burning, as his cause labored in the wilderness.

On this Independence Day, as we celebrate our country and put our patriotism on display, it is worth remembering the words that Adlai E. Stevenson spoke 60 years ago.  His challenge to America – to embrace a patriotism anchored in love and vigilance, not hate and convenience – rings as true today as it did in some of the darkest moments of our history. Here, indeed, was a true American patriot.

9:56 AM PT: Wow! Thank you to everyone who's recommended the article so far. I'm so proud to see it at the top of the Community Spotlight section. :)

I just got back from a local Independence Day parade, where I marched with the Democratic Party group. In a town carried by McCain, we got a lot more cheers than boos/heckling - it was a great feeling!

Originally posted to stephenyellin on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Community Spotlight.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Let me know what YOU think (14+ / 0-)

    Please feel free to recommend this diary and share it with anyone you think would find it informative and/or enjoyable.

    I am always appreciative of feedback, good or bad, so post something in the comments if you wish.

    Thanks for reading!

    - Stephen

    "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

    by MrLiberal on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:18:21 AM PDT

  •  Beautiful catch and a propos to the day. (14+ / 0-)

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:29:17 AM PDT

  •  T & R from a native son of Illinois. (14+ / 0-)

    Terrific diary, Mr. L.  It took real political guts--some call it statesmanship--to go into that lion's den and deliver a speech that he knew could not help him politically, but nevertheless felt impelled to present.  He was running for President but also fighting for America's soul.

    My wife tells the family story of election night in 1956 when she was 7 years old and her father, a generally even-keeled, good-natured Irish Democrat, came into the kitchen distraught and saying "Stephenson's lost.  Stephenson's lost".  My wife's response was to go over and reassure him with "I'm sure they'll find him, daddy".

    McLean County, IL (Bloomington-Normal area) was home for the Stephenson clan and thus it shouldn't be surprising that McLean Stephenson of M*A*S*H fame was part of Adlai's family tree.

    A wonderful Independence Day diary and the question of what is a patriot is every bit as important today as it was then.  

    A petty criminal is someone with predatory instincts but insufficient capital to form a corporation. --Clarence Darrow

    by stlsophos on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 06:21:07 AM PDT

  •  Speaking of McCarthyism (17+ / 0-)

    Testimony of Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 18, 1955

    Mr. SCHERER: Do you understand it is the feeling of the Committee that you are in contempt as a result of the position you take?

    Mr. SEEGER: I can’t say.

    Mr. SCHERER: I am telling you that that is the position of the Committee. . . .

    Mr. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them. . . .

    Source: Congress, House, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area (Entertainment): Hearings, 84th Congress, August 18, 1955

    He was blacklisted for being a communist and barred from playing commercial venues.

    White-collar conservatives flashing down the street, pointing their plastic finger at me..

    by BOHICA on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 06:56:21 AM PDT

  •  Adlai and ER Murrow Made Me A Liberal (8+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this excellent diary.  I was conscious politically from a very early age.  And the great Stevenson was from Illinois where I lived.      

    My 11 yo grandson will be coming back to the States next week, after living in Nuremberg for a year and a half.  He'll be reading this diary and we'll be talking about what happened then and what's happening now.  

  •  Absolutely amazing speech! (5+ / 0-)

    "But surely intolerance and public irresponsibility cannot be cloaked in the shinning armor of rectitude and righteousness."

    Music to my ears! To conservatives, this is foreign language... although it so well defines them through and through...

  •  My choir sang at his funeral (8+ / 0-)

    I was a member of the Chicago Children's Choir, based out of the very liberal 1st Unitarian Church in Hyde Park.   Stevenson was a hero in those parts, for all the reasons that the diarist has eloquently noted.

    We were a pretty good choir, if I say so myself, singing for the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony on occasion.  But it was a signal honor to us  - and even 12 year olds like myself were aware of it - to be invited to travel downstate one hot July day to be the choir at Adlai Stevenson funeral at the Unitarian Church in Bloomington.

    After all these years, I can't recall what we sang.   But I remember the solemnity of the event and the feeling that we really had to be at our best for a man whom everyone we knew had voted for and admired.  

    Thanks for the diary.


  •  I'm sure I would have voted for Stevenson, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, historys mysteries, Joieau

    but with certain reservations about it, I only wish we had a candidate who would actually support the 1956 Republican Party platform.
    How far we have fallen in my lifetime!

    ",,, the Political whorehouse that is Fox News." Keith Olbermann

    by irate on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 09:38:14 AM PDT

  •  How my parents loves Adlai! (7+ / 0-)

    My mother and father regaled me with Stevenson stories while I was still floating in the amniotic sea, then later when I was old enough to understand why they had campaigned for him, setting in motion my own political life.

    Thank you for a very well done diary on agreat statesman, a most excellent contrast to today's crop of corporate puppets.


    Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle. -- Woody Allen

    by cassandracarolina on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 09:41:20 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for reading it! (3+ / 0-)

      I'm glad you liked the article so much.

      Stevenson was an inspiration to many Americans, particularly younger ones, to get involved in politics. Many of the young go-getters who would organize the programs of the New Frontier and the Great Society got their start with Stevenson.

      My grandfather, a labor organizer, was also strongly supportive of Stevenson. In 1956, my 6-year old mother, sitting at the dinner table, piped up that she'd vote for Eisenhower "because he looks like a Grandpa". Needless to say, Grandpa Harry was not amused. Thanks in part to having a dad like him, my Mom became a Democrat, and passed those ideals on to me.

      "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

      by MrLiberal on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 10:28:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  so few good ones...and adlai was one of the best.. (4+ / 0-)

    adlai, paul simon, (and my dad, god rest, in his one-term state legislative turn...) you can count the true blue good ones on one hand. there's a couple i could name today, maybe, but it seems like the really pure souls out there are fewer and fewer. thinking back on the mccarthy hearings, you have to wonder how far a guy like that could get today with the rightwing noise machine and the superpacs behind him. and most days i'm afraid we are about to find out.

    Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job. -- Adlai E. Stevenson

    by marzook on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 09:52:30 AM PDT

  •  My first hero (7+ / 0-)

    I was very young since I was born in 1948, but I remember wanting to be as smart and as nice as Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Jr. His voice sounded sincere and his ideas seemed nice (remember I was very young).

    Later I really got to know some of his ideas and stances and I thought that he was "too nice."  But now, in my old age, I am back to wanting to be as smart and nice as Adlai Stevenson, my first hero.

    "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

    by CorinaR on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 09:58:47 AM PDT

  •  thank so much for presenting the thoughts of (4+ / 0-)

    this great American. My parents were devoted Stevensonians - not least b/c of his anti-McCarthy stand (my Dad chose his cigarette brand b/c they advertised on Edward R Murrow's show).

    Here's my favorite Stevenson picture:

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 10:05:28 AM PDT

    •  Ah, yes, the infamous "hole in the shoe" photo (5+ / 0-)

      Stevenson is seen here at  a 1952 event campaign event; apparently he was caught wearing one of his older pairs of shoes.

      Supporters claimed that it showed him as fiscally responsible; detractors claimed he was a bumbling fool who clearly couldn't be trusted with the White House, if he couldn't take care of his shoes. Each side would promote their own take on the photograph for years.

      "We are the leaders we've been waiting for." - Paul Wellstone

      by MrLiberal on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 10:22:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Democratic-Farmer/Labor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, historys mysteries, DawnN

    My parents were poor tenant farmers. They grew up during the depression, idolized FDR and thought well of Truman. They probably represented the Farmer/Labor wing of the DFL party in Minnesota. But I remember the election of '52,  as a 7 yr old, how they got caught up in the fervor for the war hero Ike and voted Republican for the first, and possibly only, time.

    By 1960 I was firmly in the Democratic camp, and campaigned for JFK in our school's mock election. In the small rural high school, Kennedy did not win, but I took comfort in the fact that he won nationally.

    Thank you for this diary. I always loved listening to Adlai speak. He was an intellectual and my favorite political orator.  At least until I was fortunate enough, as a college freshman, to see and hear Norman Thomas in person in Minneapolis.

  •  America was worse & Adlai more heroic (4+ / 0-)

    than you indicate.   The Red scare was personified not only by the demagogue from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, but also supreme militarist, Douglas MacArthur.  After being cashiered for insubordination the general not only addressed a joint session of Congress but also toured the nation stirring up rebellion against the democratic government of Harry Truman.  Many American homes displayed pictures and even small statutes of MacArthur to show their support.  The mood of America was mean and there was a definite danger of a military dictatorship.  The conservative Eisenhower was used by 'moderate' Republicans to block the tyrannical MacArthur.   Unfortunately the civilized Adlai Stevenson was trampled by the elephants.

  •  Great diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Joieau

    I'm about 20 miles from Stevenson's grave in Bloomington, IL, so he's legend around here, despite being in what is a deeply red part of the state these days.  Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington has a bronze of Stevenson in the lobby.

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

    by dsteffen on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 11:28:20 AM PDT

  •  Stevenson didn't want to win enough (0+ / 0-)

    I was a boy during both of his campaigns, so there was much I am sure I missed.  I did understand about Joseph McCarthy though.  A neighbor was targeted for her supposed communist leanings (and she may well have been a Marxist, but she sure a hell wasn't going to help Stalin).  I knew that because my father talked to me about my habit of talking with her and helping her weed her garden. It seems she had watchers who had spoken with my dad's boss about me, and the friendship of a 7 year old boy was such a threat to national security that it threatened my dad's job.  Anyway, I remember being disappointed that Stevenson's wit did not translate to entertaining and selling the counter argument to McCarthy's right wing fear mongering.  I wanted a little more ass kicking, and a little less principled self deprecation.  OTOH, maybe you are right about the futility of Stevenson's campaign and the challenge he faced was to move the national conversation to the point where Kennedy could win.

  •  Thank you for a diary worthy of a day devoted to (0+ / 0-)

    patriotism by featuring a man who knew what it meant. He was my first political hero - and, perhaps, the best.

    The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate. (Hopi)

    by DawnN on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 03:35:00 PM PDT

  •  My first vote was for Adlai Stevenson (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the small downstate town in Central Illinois where I was born, our high school ran a mock convention in 1952.  I don't remember how I was selected to be a representative or what state I was supposed to represent, just that I was delighted to do so because my Mom (a dedicated Democrat) was proud of me for participating.  And as a just-turned 15 year old sophomore, I was scared to death at the thought of having to speak out before the whole school assembly.    What I do remember is standing up in the gym and shouting out (so that I would be heard up on the stage), "I proudly cast my vote for the next President of the United States, AdlaI E. Stevenson!"  And I am still proud of that first vote (unofficial as it was).  

    We must all hang together or we will all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin

    by IllanoyGal on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 04:56:40 PM PDT

  •  Excellent! Stevenson's definition of patriotism (0+ / 0-)

    is profound. I can't remember it exactly, but Mark Twain had a great quote on patriotism. Right now I've got to go be loyal to my family and spend some time with them, but I'm sure someone can look it up.

  •  I'm no fan of "patriotism" (0+ / 0-)

    I'm a big fan of Stevenson, but I draw the line at identifying my leftism with patriotism.  Patriotism is defined as a devotion to the nation, which is an artifact of citizenship, ethnicity, language, borders, etc., all of which seem like very sensible and natural ideas.  But they're not.  The idea of "nation" is the primary tool of capitalism.  National policies of taxation, worker protection, environmental protection, etc., are what allow capitalists to play one nation off another ("if you don't lower your taxes, I'll take my investments elsewhere!").  National borders are what allow merchants to let money and merchandise flow to and fro, while preventing people who seek work from doing likewise.  National sentiments of "I'm in, you're out" are just an easy way for people to cultivate sensibilities of ethnocentrism and its easy variants of racism and "I hate poor people" classism.  Nationalist sentiments make war seem like a righteous enterprise, since you're not really killing people who are "like" you.  Us-versus-them patriotism makes it seem like the biggest threat to an individual's well-being comes from other nations, when in fact it comes from people who control an excess of wealth and political leverage.   If patriotism meant working together to make the world a better place, I'd be all for it.  But it doesn't.  

  •  Stevenson was a great man and his exegesis (0+ / 0-)

    on patriotism a must read.  For my money, I'll stick with this pithy riposte from Missouri Senator Carl Schurz to a charge of being insufficiently "patriotic":

    The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, "My country, right or wrong." In one sense I say so too. My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

    Remind me why Jamie Dimon is worth about 50,000 teachers? Tweet

    by caul on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 02:45:30 AM PDT

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