The united States citizenry emerged into the Bicentennial observance through a series of traumas that diluted the enthusiasm for patriotism. Certain recent events have discouraged any unprotesting display of patriotic fervor as ethically insensitive. Antipatriotism has come to be viewed in some circles as a moral necessity if not a spiritual imperative. The elevation of patriotism into an idolatrous national religion is therefore far less of a temptation than is a dismissal, by alienated radicals, of patriotism as a fiendish aberration.
It is highly unlikely that we shall see any swing away from this moral questioning of patriotism toward a Bicentennial religion of uncritical nationalism. Nor is there any sign of a Bicentennial religious mood that would reflect negatively on the patriotic loyalties of those who are ecclesiastically uncommitted.
But the American questioning of the morality of patriotism ought not to be unchallenged. Neither the Communist world nor the Third World questions patriotism. Is the American disposition to debunk patriotism ethically grounded? Or does any nation approach the endtime of its greatness when its citizens are no longer willing to make sacrifices for it?
Prior to Watergate, the American questioning of patriotism was largely an underground phenomenon. In the sixties, militant demonstrators increased their reliance on coercive tactics to confront racial discrimination and social inequity. As the war in Viet Nam widened, religious support mounted not only for economic leveling in the face of poverty but also for pacifism and draft dissent. Over against radical reliance on disruptive tactics stood a pervasive national mood of law-and-order that reelected President Nixon. Even so, in their refusal ...1
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