Patriotism: A New Definition

The jig is up and Americans are finally beginning to understand just how bamboozled they have become, I thought it appropriate to share an essay I wrote earlier this year for a writing seminar that focused on diversity and patriotism.
There are some links embedded in the essay (boldy marked), some images have relevant links & messages.
This version has been slightly edited from the original.



Deriving from Roman antiquity, the word patriot or patria is translated as “fatherland, city, native, or familiar place.”1 The basic definition of a “generic” American patriot is someone who expresses love for their country, proudly places hand over heart during the national anthem, and sings “God Bless America.” Patriots enjoy the simple pleasures of freedom, football, BBQs, and ice-cold beer. American patriots do not need to be heroes as long as they display love for country at all times. A true patriot fights for the right to bear arms, supports the military effort for freedom, detests illegal activities, and illegal immigrants. An American patriot does not question its government because he knows that the government protects those who show faith in the name of official authority. That’s what a patriot is in America — at least that is a common stereotype given to Americans and a large reason why other countries hate America.

The illustration above is what our culture has fiercely portrayed since the manufacturing of the American Dream.  Mark Twain, published an essay, “The Lowest Animal” in 1896, in which he criticized the concept of patriotism by writing:

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man”- with his mouth.2


Mark Twain paints a dark portrait of what he imagined a patriot to be in his time. His definition runs more along the lines of xenophobia or supremacy. The concept of patriotism has either been slightly misunderstood by modern society or has changed throughout the ages. There are many different variations of patriotism that waver depending on personal viewpoints and philosophical reasoning. It has become vastly important for Americans to redefine what patriotism means, and fast. The new form of patriotism cares less about legal borders, and requires more actions [activism] that directly benefit the well-being of the public, without harming anyone in process or outcome.

Stephen P. Kiernan, author of Authentic Patriotism, attempts to explain the difference between the common patriot and, what he calls, authentic patriotism.3 Authentic patriotism is different from what the typical American might consider a nationalistic citizen. It has little to do with how much one loves their country and government. Authentic patriotism focuses on how much one cares about the quality of life for all living creatures and to speak out against injustice behavior. Authentic patriots understand that governments are not meant to be relied upon, and that politicians should be scrutinized, questioned, and forever monitored. Kiernan explains to be an authentic patriot one must find an undesirable [shitty] situation and acquire knowledge to actively solve the problem.

The idea of patriotism exists in most all countries, as the United States is not the only nation to use the expression “we’re number one.” A survey administered by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in 2003 discovered among the top five most prideful countries (in order) were Austria, South Africa, Australia, Venezuela, and America.5   Findings from this study indicated that the countries with the most pride were nations that fought for independence within the last two centuries.  Tom Smith, NORC director, responds, “These countries [who think they are superior] were formed through an act of political will…which, in turn, heightens their citizens’ loyalty” especially in times of war. 5 The illusion that America is the best at everything is misleading. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that America is the unhealthiest country in the world.6 The study ranked America number-one in the most “infant mortality [rates], injury and homicide rates, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, drug abuse, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and disabilities.”7


Many citizens gave their lives for patriotic reasons after the horrific 9/11 event.9 It was a very emotional moment for the entire country, as everyone showed support for those who died and risked their lives to save survivors. The response from the government was to initiate a war, find weapons of mass destruction, and free a country run by terrorists. After the dust settled, advocates for peace criticized the governments’ decision and claimed the reason for war was not freedom or protection, but driven by oil, which was later proven to be true.10 It is not the soldier who is at fault in this case but the government. The officials in power, who are sworn to protect citizens, failed Americans by sending soldiers into a battle fueled by a need for resources and power. The soldiers of the Iraq War enlisted for a cause believed to keep their country safe, and these terms made them authentic patriots, even if they had followed a political lie.

Primate researcher Jane Goodall has observed the natural occurrence of chimpanzees in midst a territorial battle that she could only describe as a war,8  therefore one could argue that warfare is a natural progression of nature, but that is too simple and ignorant a statement to be used as an excuse for greedy violent behavior. Morals are the one thing that divides us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and a human without morals is no better than a dangerous and thoughtless beast. The evolution of warfare has already technologically advanced beyond what nature ever intended [drones, atomic bombs, chemical warfare], and it continues to advance [robots, nano-technology, invisibility]


During elections politicians try to out-stage their opponents by highlighting how much they love their country in the name of patriotism. In the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Vice President candidate, Paul Ryan, staged a photo shoot at a soup kitchen in Ohio in which he was seen volunteering for charity.
The director of the kitchen told reporters that he was not invited, barged in, and proceeded to wash dishes that were already clean.11 This type of behavior should be considered a perversion of patriotism, and serves only as a model for disgraceful behavior. Not all political representatives are as seedy as Paul Ryan and some genuinely care for the American population and its future.12 Third parties, like the Green Party, Independent Party, or Justice Party, house a number of candidates that raise important questions and provide innovative solutions to problems that Republicans and Democrats seemingly ignore, such as corporate greed.

Many politicians would not be where they are today without very large corporate sponsors. Both Republican and Democrat parties depend on large corporate donations to fund campaigns. The total cost of the 2012 campaign, from both parties, reached a debatable $4.2 billion, which is currently the record for most amount spent on a presidential election.13 To put that number into perspective, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization calculated it would take about $30 billion a year to end world hunger.14 Remember that the United States government spent almost a trillion dollars to bail out the banks of Wall Street. In one swipe they could have ended world hunger, but the bankers get the cake instead. Authentically patriotic politicians are those that refuse money from big corporations and demand reformation of social, economic, and environmental policies. Unfortunately these candidates are left outside of the media spotlight and struggle in a broken system that worships money and ignores integrity.


Food Cart Vendors in New York
Immigrants and migrant workers of the United States have the ability to express authentic patriotism regardless of their origins. A recent documentary, Apple Pushers, addresses the problem of food deserts in low-income cities.15 Food deserts are urban areas that do not have easy access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and instead are subjected to rows of fast-food chains, convenience shops, and liquor stores.16 A group of legislators and nutritionists in New York City, took action to remedy the lack of access to fresh foods by employing street vendors to sell produce from mobile food carts in impoverished areas. The undertone of the documentary tracks the journey of five immigrants who move to New York City to improve their family’s lives. The story follows them as they struggle to live the American Dream through entrepreneurial ventures as food cart vendors. The story is a reflection of the history of immigration in America. It is an illustration of how anyone can make a difference in their community regardless of where they were naturally born.


Ageless and Cageless 

The concept of authentic patriotism stretches across the entire globe and is not exclusive to where the patriot resides. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, that affected 3.5 million people in 2010, a seven-year-old boy, Charlie Simpson from London England, decided he wanted to help the children effected by this natural disaster. Simpson started an internet campaign to raise money for those in need.17 His goal was to raise $800 dollars by gaining sponsors for a five-mile bike ride, but to his surprise Charlie raised over $240,000 for Haiti and his efforts received national media coverage.18 This boy’s compassion and action of charity made him a hero, but it also made seven year old Charlie Simpson an authentic patriot. Charlie’s campaign efforts would not be going towards helping his country, but he is still considered an authentic patriot because he was assisting the global community while only doing good deeds.

Authentic patriotism can be achieved by anyone with the capacity for rational thought. Some people are content with living an ascetic life, others strive for recognition, fame, and fortune. We cannot all achieve the same amount of success, nor can we all be nationally recognized for our efforts and deeds, but that does not mean we should not strive for greatness in our daily lives. Authentic patriotism depends on a character’s virtues, actions, and goals. It does not matter what country you were born in or how old you are, just as long as your actions are positively affecting others, including your own. The first steps of an authentic patriot starts with the refusal of being a voyeur to life and what is happening around you. Being an authentic patriot requires one to develop habits conducive to positive actions and behavior. It is not easy, and if you’re still reading this, I am sure you will agree, The hardest part of trying anything is failure, but if you never try, then you will never succeed.



1. Igor Primoratz, “Patriotism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy, Metaphysics Research Lab, June 1, 2009,
2.  Mark Twain, “The Lowest Animal,” Letters from Earth, Ed. Bernard de Voto, (New York: Harper Perrenial, 1991), 222-31.
3. Stephen P. Kiernan, Authentic Patriotism: Restoring America’s Founding Ideals Through Selfless Action, (New York: St. Martins Press, 2010).
4. Larry Alexander, “Deontological Ethics,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Metaphysics Research Lab, November, 21, 2007,
5. Sara Pardys, “World’s Most and Least Patriotic Countries,” Forbes, July, 2, 2008,
6. Taylor Berman, “America Is Number One (At Obesity, STDs, and Dying Young,” Gawker, updated January 9, 2013,
7. Taylor Berman, “America Is Number One.”
8. Robin McKie, “Chimps with Everything: Jane Goodall’s 50 Years in the Jungle,” Guardian News and Media, June, 26, 2010,
9. Lisa Daniel, “Recruiters Recall Patriotism of Post 9/11 America,” American Press Forces Service, September, 8, 2011,
10.  Steven Mufson, “A Crude Case For War?” Washington Post, March, 16, 2008,
11. Henry Blodget, “Paul Ryan Buster For Staged Photo-Op At Soup Kitchen Where He Pretended To Wash Dishes,” Business Insider, October 15, 2012,
12. Green Party of the United States, “The Green Party of the United State,” Union Labor, accessed on February 18, 2013,
13. Jennifer Liberto, “2012 Election Priciest to Date: $4.2 Billion Tab and Rising,” CNN Money, November, 5, 2012,
14. Elisbeth Rosenthal, “UN Says Solving Food Crisis Could Cost $30 Billion,” NY Times, June, 4, 2008,
15. Apple Pushers, directed by Mary Mazzio (2012; New York City, NY: 50 Eggs Films, 2012), DVD.
16. Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi, Food Justice, (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2010), 40.
17. Charlie Simpson, “The Simpsons is fundraising for UNICEF UK,” Justgiving, accessed February, 18, 2013,
18.  Agnes Teh, “Boy 7, Raises $240,000 for Haiti Appeal,” CNN, January, 26, 2010,

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