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Voicing thoughts on patriotism, good and bad

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Posted: Monday, July 7, 2008 5:26 am | Updated: 2:35 pm, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

It was an exciting weekend of patriotic fervor with a presidential appearance, minting of new citizens, protests and other fireworks.

The events and surrounding media hoopla, however, begged questions of what patriotism is and why it’s useful, so we sought answers in many different places. Here’s what we found:

“The question of what it is to be a patriot seems to be one of the fundamental questions that we, as Americans, ask ourselves. You will get as many different answers as people you ask.” — Christian J. Schoenewald, chairman of the Albemarle County Republican Party

“Patriotism means unconditional love, sacrifice, a respect for our freedoms and honor for those who allow us to enjoy our freedoms. Patriotism’s most important aspect is that it is a shared ethos and experience. No one person can claim a monopoly on patriotism.” — Jonathon T. Blank, co-chairman of the Charlottesville Democratic Party

“For me, patriotism means you respect the land, our people, our customs and traditions, our laws, take pride in our history and preserve and honor it. It means being productive and taking care of your community and neighbors. It’s about coming together to find solutions for the highest good of all, not for greed, power, and money.” — Mary Ellen Wooten, director of From Us To You troop support organization

“I’m not a fan of patriotism, nationalism, racism, religion, or anything that does more to divide people into often antagonistic groups than the benefits seem to justify. I think we should be ashamed of our schools teaching children to stand like robots and swear obedience to a piece of cloth. I think we should be frightened of how easily a president can use that piece of cloth to cover the most hideous crimes and incite the most catastrophic wars of aggression.” — David Swanson, Charlottesville peace activist

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” — Samuel Johnson, 18th-century English essayist, poet and social critic

“Patriotism is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity and increases his arrogance and conceit.” — Emma Goldman, 20th-century American peace activist and founder of “Mother Earth” magazine

“Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries.” — Sydney J. Harris, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

“There seems no reason why patriotism and

narrowness should go together, or why intellectual fair-mindedness should be confounded with political trimming, or why serviceable truth should keep cloistered because not partisan.” — Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick”

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” — Gen. Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French movement in World War II and the first president of France after the war

“The flag that is imposed on some 150 nations around the world in some 1,000 military bases paid for with my tax dollars is not something I can bring myself to feel warm and fuzzy over. I prefer the Virginia flag. It is associated with no military, and it bears a motto that inherently counters the tendency of rulers to use flags in a fascist manner; that is to wave them at a populace as a toreador might wave one at a bull.” — David Swanson

“Patriotism is evidenced in many different ways, and the debate over what is and is not patriotic will always be at the center of our lives as Americans and Virginians. My understanding of what it is to be a patriot may differ from yours, but as a patriot, I will defend to the death your rights.” — Christian J. Schoenewald

“Patriotism, in its purest form, binds us together to achieve greatness as a whole that would never be attainable simply as individuals. Patriotism makes us a better people and a better nation.” — Jonathon T. Blank

“JFK said it best; ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ All of us can do better than what we are doing now, is what I say. Every day I thank God that I am an American.” — Mary Ellen Wooten

To sum it up, patriotism is wanting our country to be the best it can be, even if we differ on exactly what that means.

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