Tuesday, February 25, 2014


“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”


This is the most famous quotation ever about patriotism, and it is a slander!

Samuel Johnson (Great Britain, 1709-1784) said it.  Johnson was a towering figure in English literature and the only person ever to have a literary period named after him: “The Age of Johnson” (1750 – ca 1800).  His biggest literary triumph was not even his own; it was his biography, “The Life of Samuel Johnson," written by the world’s first groupie, James Boswell.  Well, OK, he wrote the first widely used dictionary in the English language, and he did rescue from obscurity a playwright named William Shakespeare.

OK, fine!  But what did Johnson mean by that slander on patriotism?

First, what is patriotism?  At its core, patriotism means “love of country.”  Nothing more, nothing less.  Having conservative values does not qualify you as a patriot; having liberal values does not qualify you as a patriot.  A patriot is one who loves his country, that’s all.

Johnson was, of course, slandering what he thought was FALSE patriotism, the kind of patriotism that some folks wear on their sleeves, a patriotism for show, for display.

Examples, please.  Wearing an American flag pin, putting out your flag on July 4th, attending a July 4th fireworks display, and voting every four years.  If that is ALL you do, you are a false patriot.  These are all fine and patriotic things to do; but if they are all you do, you do not really love your country, you are no true patriot.  Patriotism demands more than that, true love of country demands more than that.

What then qualifies an American as a TRUE patriot?  Anyone who has voluntarily performed military service – as a career, or for only one tour, or even state-side – loves his country.  That is enough.  If you went to work for the government – if you took a public service job – when you could have had a higher-paying private sector job, and you also suffer the indignities of not being appreciated by the public, you love your country.  If you attend city council meetings, and town hall meetings; if you read the news parts of the daily newspapers, and listen to the local and national news (Fox News and MSNBC don't count, and you should know why!) every day; if you write your Senator and your Congressman with a piece of your mind, if you write letters to the editor about the state of your state, you love your country.  If you are an active member of a local political club, if you volunteer your time on Election Day, you love your country.  If you read history for pleasure, you love your country.  Your love of country is evidenced by how much of your time, your muscle, your brain and your heart you give to your country as a real honest-to-God patriotic citizen.

Here's another test of patriotism.  If you were born here and schooled here, and you are a grown-up of at least 25 years, can you score better on a Citizenship test than the Swedish fellow down the block who just became a citizen last month?  He needed to answer correctly 6 out of 10 random questions out of 100 possible questions; can you score at least 80 out of the full 100 questions?  If you can't, can you really claim to love the country you know so little about?  Frankly, you should be embarrassed if you score less than 90%.  Give it a shot; no one is looking.  The questions are embarrassingly easy.  Google "sample citizenship test" or try this one (full-length or timed versions of the test).  And check this out too.

Why do I jaw on about patriotism and patriots?  Because there is a lot of work to be done, and it will be done by patriots, TRUE patriots.  If you are not one yet – OK, most of us are not there yet – come along with me and we will get you back in shape.

And need I add, most of my book, To My Countrymen: The Essential Handbook for Tea Partiers, Occupiers, and Every American Who is Mad as Hell and Isn't Going to Take It Any More, was written to make you a better citizen, a more informed citizen, a real patriot who puts his body where his mouth is, and hopefully a committed citizen-soldier for our great fight – to restore our democracy to We, the People!