Zion and the Uses of Patriotism

The orgies of lugubrious praise of Ronald Reagan in the press and even at other Mormon-themed blogs this week has me asking some questions (besides the obvious, snarky one of when obsequious adulation crosses the line into something nearly blasphemous).

What is patriotism for? The most common refrain to the eulogies of President Reagan is that “he made us feel good about America.”. Why is that so important? I’m not saying that it isn’t important; I think there may well be profound lessons to be learned from a deep love of one’s country. Patriotism has inspired loyalty, devotion, self-sacrifice, even real heroism. Still, it seems to me that patriotism is an inconstant schoolmaster: patriotism that becomes blind to the foibles of the beloved nation or indifferent to the hopes and dreams of denizens of other nations can quickly become hideous. Patriotism seems risky to me because it is so easily distorted.

When I was younger and knew everything, my smug and self-satisfied explanation of why patriotism might be commendable went like this: like the love of family, love of country can expand our circle of caring out from ourselves. God bids us draw ever wider circles around the people and things that we love, until eventually our love, like His, can encompass all of creation. Getting stuck at caring for our families or our tribe or our country is better than remaining in a state of infantile self-love, but it is still far from the “telos” God has in mind for us. But this is far too easy an explanation, and fails to account for the many people who are much wiser than I who are deeply moved by patriotic feelings.

I think part of what has given me the willies about all the Reagan-worship in the last few days is that it is centered on one man, rather than on the principles underlying the nation’s founding or some other more palatable abstraction. It’s easy for me to think that loving humane ideals like freedom, justice, equality can move us to the kind of devotion to a community of “one mind” that will bring us to Zion, but I get lost when one (moderately to severely, depending on your persuasion) flawed man is enshrined as the embodiment of all those virtues. Still, to draw the Mormon parallel, it seems clear that the Saints who have come closest to making something like Zion were motivated both by love of the gospel in the abstract, and by love and loyalty to living, breathing, (and therefore flawed) leaders. I confess that I understand this kind of loyalty as little as I understand the emotion behind tributes to President Reagan.

So, help me out. Can patriotism be a tool for teaching us how to approach Zion? If so, what would such patriotism look like? Does it require us to turn a blind eye to the faults and sins of our leaders? Or, is patriotism a trap that closes our hearts to our brothers and sisters in other countries? Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses have it right when they claim to reserve their allegiance for God? Should we be waiting for “a better country, that is, an heavenly”?


  1. “At a fireside held Saturday night by Pres. Hinckley…?”

    Hey Steve, didn’t they read that First Presidencyletter over the pulpit in your ward about not paraphrasing and/or circulating what church leaders say in local meetings?


  2. Kristine says:

    “At the jubilee on Saturday, several rows of young women behind me screamed and cried upon sighting the prophet.”


  3. D. Fletcher says:

    “D.–no, I wasn’t there, just expressing my distaste at Steve’s account. If I’m coming to NYC, I’m expecting a giant BCC party in my honor so I can meet all of you :)”

    Whoops! I now see I misread this thing.

    Kristine, we will certainly throw you a party when you come (or I will).

  4. “I think part of what has given me the willies about all the Reagan-worship in the last few days is that it is centered on one man, rather than on the principles underlying the nation’s founding or some other more palatable abstraction. “

    Oh come on! I suspect that 90% of what gives you the willies about Reagan-worship is the fact that Reagan was a Republican.

    As for the he-was-grinding-the-faces-of-the-poor point, I suspect that you could adopt one of two interpretations of Mormon responses:

    1. Mormons who supported Reagan are moral pygmies who haven’t read the scriptures and simply lack the deeper insight of me and thee.

    2. Mormons who supported Reagan thought that the Great Society welfare state was positively harming people by creating a culture of dependence, etc., and for that reason ought to be disassembled.

    The first reason assumes that there is some decisive difference in moral outlook (or simply moral sensitivity), the second reason assumes that people have differing perceptions about how people are being harmed and what they are being harmed by.

    This point is neither here nor there as to the ultimate evaluation of Reagan’s policies — some of them I thought were good, some not so good — but the stance of moral puzzlement seems a little obtuse.

  5. “I wonder if the gospel requires us to proceed from the most optimistic possible assumptions, since we can’t actually know whether or when people will experience a change of heart and become better than they were.”

    Hmmm. I am doubtful that this is a good basis for social policy. I would like good data about how people in the aggregate do behave. Absent that, I would fall back on some chastened version of the rational actor model, which I think is probably a pretty good aggregate predictor. I suspect that this lets use sunny assumptions about future behavior approach, is simply “desert” creep — we are confusing ideas of forgiveness and human worth with ideas about human behavior.

    BTW, if the simplistic incentive talk can sound mean, it is worth pointing out that simplistic desert talk can sound frighteningly niave and stupid.

  6. Kristine says:

    “Oh come on! I suspect that 90% of what gives you the willies about Reagan-worship is the fact that Reagan was a Republican.”

    Not true–I promise I’d be just as creeped out about this level of adulation for Clinton. (Muzzy-headed liberal? Yes. Democratic partisan hack? Not so much. Pick your insults accordingly, please.)

    Dave said it better than I did, but I get really, really nervous about personal loyalties that override principles and common sense. It’s part of why I have so many issues (for want of a less psychobabblish term) with the “Follow the Prophet” rhetoric (not to mention the Primary song!).

    Of course I don’t believe your #1, but I think believing the underlying proposition of #2 requires a willful ignorance of every sociological measure anybody has been able to come up with–there just isn’t any question that the poorest poor in the country were significantly worse off at the end of the Reagan years than at the beginning. Of course, I suppose one can write that off as “short-term negative consequences” of a policy that will be beneficial a generation down the road. That’s a calculus that makes me queasy, when it means little children will go hungry in the “short term.”

    Welfare policy is spectacularly difficult; reasonable people can disagree. But, as Jeremy pointed out in his initial comment, the sense of *righteousness* about taking benefits away from the poor, the rehabilitation of the notion that poor people are poor because they are bad, was new (or at least dramatically escalated) during the Reagan years. And I *am* puzzled by people who can read King Benjamin’s specific injunction that we are not to make our giving contingent on judgments about the beggar’s worthiness, and then turn around and talk about how to judge whether or not people deserve welfare payments. Sorry if I’m too obtuse for you, Nate.

  7. Kristine says:

    “There are undoubtedly discrete, indentifiable groups that have been made worse by every president. Probably by every major figure. Is the mere existence of such groups sufficient to cast aspersions?”

    I think it is, at least if there is some Christian or Mormon criterion for greatness that departs from the worldly one–if we take the scriptures seriously, then the sufferings of “the least of these, my brethren” are, in fact, grounds for condemnation of the high and mighty. Yes, that’s being idealistic and impractical, but it bothers me to see would-be Christians just blink away the significant harms caused by Reagan’s (or any other leader’s–you won’t catch me calling Clinton or Carter great (hard to type that last with a straight face :)), either) policies.

    I don’t know how we can go from reading Isaiah and the Book of Mormon to canonizing a guy who unabashedly made the lives of the poor in this country (with the enthusiastic support, btw, of plenty of Mormon voters) even more wretched than they already were. [We can bracket, for the moment, the effects of his and his underlings’ foreign policies]. I’m not being coy; I *really* don’t get it, and I haven’t yet seen an explanation from conservative Mormons that goes beyond their general approbation of his personality and justifies the substance of his presidency in terms that would make the gushing admiration comprehensible to me.

  8. An earlier comment, that I think should not go un-discussed, is the assertion that “patriotism” is necessary in times of war. I think that cuts to precisely the point that is making Kristine uneasy (Kristine feel free to correct me….): the danger of patriotism unchecked by a sincere valuing of individual liberties.

    In the case of patriotism in war time, I think we are witnessing how the sheer force of popular patriotism is acting as a dampening force on free speech. The pressure to “support our troops” has been so strong that questions about the legitmacy of the war have been silenced as unpatriotic. Those questions need to be asked–it’s vital that a democracy promotes the free flow of information, or it can’t function. The “patriot” act is another example of patriotism covering up some undemocratic principles.

    I love my country, but I love it because it allows free speech and individual liberties. As soon as those freedoms are threatened, I get very suspicious of the “patriotism” threatening them

  9. As it happens I am honestly puzzled by King Benjamin. (Although, I vote GOP/Libertarian, so I am probably just morally obtuse, at least that is what they told me in law school ;->) You can read it in a couple of ways:

    1. He is arguing that we ought to never make decisions based on desert, because we can’t make those judgments, and therefore we should always give.

    2. His point is primarily about virtue ethics (if I may use an awkward and anachronistic term). He is saying that a proper character on the part of the giver requires certain actions. (The effect of those actions on the givee becomes secondary, as is made clear by his “If you have nothing to give, say in your heart…”

    I actually think that both of these readings are correct. However, I am not sure that we can draw the anti-incentive analysis implication from them. Afterall, one might argue that the inability to make judgements about desert means that one should base all policy analysis on incentives. Alternatively, I am skeptical about how valuable virtue ethics is as a guide to public policy. The problem is that King Benjamin just doesn’t say anything about the idea of incentives and doesn’t seem to be thinking in those terms at all. I suppose that one might draw the implication from this that we ought not to think in those terms either. (I think that Nibley implicitly makes this move.) The problem with this is that (1) it is an argument from silence, which is always weak; and, (2) I find this approach more than a little frightening and irresponsible.

  10. At a fireside held Saturday night by Pres. Hinckley, to celebrate the NY Temple dedication, he spoke regarding Pres. Reagan. He pointed out the presidential cufflinks he was wearing, indicating that they were a gift from Pres. Reagan. He then said something along the lines of, “whether you’re Republican or Democrat, the fact remains that Pres. Reagan was a true patriot and a great friend to this Church.”

    So, what do y’all think of them apples?

    Here’s my POV: Pres. Hinckley is right. Reagan really did believe in America, even if it was a movie-style concept. And Reagan really was a good friend to our Church. Perhaps not to the Church members in Nicaragua, but that’s besides the point here, I guess.

    Pres. Hinckley spent some time speaking about the promises and warnings in the BOM regarding America as a choice land, a land of freedom, etc. Clearly, for him, allegiance to the USA and the constitution is not a bar to his complete allegiance to God. Interesting, however, that general authorities are to leave partisan politics behind once set apart…

  11. Back in the 80’s, my favorite Faith Promoting Rumor was the one claiming that Ron & Nancy Reagan had been through all of the missionary discussions, had accepted the Gospel, and were planning to be baptized just as soon as he left office.

    I believed it then and I choose to believe it still, although the baptisms never happened. In the case of Nancy, her astrologer ultimately advised her against it. In the case of Ron, well, he just forgot.

  12. Kristine says:

    But Steve, I’m trying to get at what it means to be a “true patriot” and how we can see that as in itself enough of a virtue to overlook, say, Iran-Contra. If I go around killing people, taking food away from hungry children, etc., I don’t think anyone would say, “well, don’t worry about what she *did,* she *believed* in loving and caring for people (and she was just so cute on TV).” Why is it different when patriotism is invoked? Also, what does believing America is a “choice land” entail, besides gratitude for the possibility of founding new religions and worshipping freely? How do we square the “chosen people/land” rhetoric with our intention to become a worldwide church?

  13. Kristine says:

    D.–no, I wasn’t there, just expressing my distaste at Steve’s account. If I’m coming to NYC, I’m expecting a giant BCC party in my honor so I can meet all of you :)

  14. Danithew, I think there’s certainly room for your definitions, but here’s the way I’ve seen it, between myself and those from other countries:

    my nationalism=patriotism
    your patriotism=nationalism.

  15. Does the “choice land” rhetoric permit exclusionary policies? I don’t think do. It’s interesting, because there’s clearly a vein of nationalism in the BOM and in our church as a whole, towards the U.S., such that would seem to get in the way of a worldwide church…

  16. great point jeremy. maybe the church will now publish _all_ talks by GAs/apostles? no…i’m not sympathetic to Elder Maxwell’s potential loss of royalty income.

  17. great point kaimi…assuming that such groups even exist. obv. hiroshima did, vis-a-vis Truman, but nothing but assertion is supporting the inclusion of nicaraguan saints vis-a-vis Reagan.

  18. Great post. So refreshing to read after the viscous encomia elsewere…

    Intellectuals, historians, economists, etc., continue to argue about the efficacy of Reagan’s policies, and/or the relationship between his values as he stated them and his efforts as they were implemented, so, with apologies to Grover Norquist and the other conservatives waiting anxiously, chisels in hand, at the base of Mt. Rushmore, I’m just going to say jury’s still out (even though I’ve my own opinions), and leave it at that.

    Policies aside, I think a lot of the most clumsy and damaging attitudes and biases held by many a Joe-Sixpack conservative today can be traced, in large part, to the distractingly humorous or dismissively pat answers Reagan gave to complex questions (whether or not he personally held those attitudes and biases to the same extent himself). To name a few:

    1) A decidedly uncharitable attitude toward the poor, one that runs directly against what King Benjamin tells us (see Reagan’s quips about welfare moms driving Cadillacs).

    2) A bitter disdain for environmentalism, and a concommitant suspicion towards scientific research that points to environmental crises (Reagan’s infamous observation that “if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen’em all”).

    3) A tendency to conflate populism with anti-elitism, and anti-elitism with anti-inellectualism, which in turn mistakes stubborn, willful ignorance and mental sloth for “regular folks” humility.

    4) A strong sense “MINE”-ness–I’ve told the joke here before, I think, but it deserves rephrasing here: the “glass half full” of Reagan’s “sunny optimism” all too easily turns into “Who the hell drank half my water?!”

    What bothers me most about the recent praise for Reagan, though, and what I think speaks to Kristine’s question about Zion, is how little the Reagan-loving non-pundits I encounter (among my friends, in the foyer at church, etc.) actually discuss his policies, but instead wax effusive about his “optimism,” his ability to “make us feel good about America.” (See the fabulous cartoon Kristine linked to in her post.) You don’t have to tweak that very hard to turn it into a negative: “He told us what we wanted to hear.” The Book of Mormon tells us time and time again to be wary of leaders who talk to us in that way.

  19. I liked Reagan. Despite his flaws, I think he was a great president. That’s all I’ll say on that matter.

    Would it be possible to make a distinction between patriotism and nationalism? I tend to see patriotism as a postive feeling of love and loyalty for country whereas nationalism seems to smack of a particularly narrow view of one’s nation as the best of all nations — or a love of one’s nation to the exclusion of all other nations.

    I don’t have any problem, for example, with people posting their country’s flag (whatever nation they belong to), saluting that flag, singing a national anthem, etc. However, nationalism strikes me as being more predatory and antagonistic in its nature. A nationalist not only loves his country’s symbols but might also want to increase the size of his country’s borders, purge the nation of undesirable ethnicities, trample on the rights and needs of other nations, etc.

    Is that a possible distinction or am I off-base with that?

  20. Gary Lee says:

    I think that patriotism serves an important purpose when a nation is engaged in war. It helps to mobilize the nation’s resources, and motivates people to make the sacrifices necessary to endure the conflict. I am not sure that a great nation can be built and sustained without promoting patriotic feelings in its citizens. However, patriotism is a poor substitute for loyalty to the principles of freedom, justice and equality that Kristine mentions. To the extent that the nation adheres to those principles, then patriotism to the nation can be equated to loyalty to those principles. Somehow it seems easier to motivate people by teaching patriotism to the nation than loyalty to principles of justice.

    I don’t believe that patriotism is a good tool for teaching us how to approach Zion. Zion is not a political concept. It is the result of people living righteous lives. Feelings of loyalty and patriotism for one’s country do nothing to promote righteous living. At best patriotism is a useful defense mechanism in the Darwinian world in which we live which allows a nation to better defend itself against aggressive enemies, while its own people learn how to be righteous in a free society. When the nation’s principles diverge from righteous principles, as they so often do, the patriots too often don’t see the problem, because their allegiance to the nation in which they are so emotionally invested blinds them.

  21. Kaimi, I’m glad that you think my snipe was facile — it was. I guess it was a quick and easy attempt to insert some aspersions. However, in my opinion, Nicaragua isn’t just some little aspersion, because the entire scandal related to those questionable activities tainted the nature of his entire presidency.

    Perhaps the reference was just to provide some kind of check to totally fawning adulation?

  22. Kristine:

    Did Reagan’s politices make you worse off? Did they make _anyone_ you know worse off? If so, please have them explain, personally, how so.

    You declaim the lack of facts. I join you in that & issue the challenge. If he sucked so bad, it shouldn’t be too hard to find folks who _personally_ suffered _more_ because of Reagan, right?


  23. Gary Lee says:

    Kristine: I think that the response from the conservative voters would be that the policies that you dislike did not really make the lives of the poor even more wretched. I don’t really know whether they did or not, but as one who was once considerably more conservative than I now am, I can say that I held to my conservative principles precisely because I thought they were the principles that were most likely to help the poor, at least in the long run. I may or may not have been correct, but if that is what you believe, then perhaps some measure of adulation is understandable.

  24. Kristine: Perhaps your chosen land/city on a hill problem could best be solved by realizing that only by bringing democracy & human rights to the world will the gospel be preached in every ear. Perhaps God raised up the American nation for more than one reason?

    It’s awfully hard to hear the gospel w/o missionaries & w/o the capacity to change religions &/or live your religion without fear of prision &/or death.

    re: Nicaragua. Um…perhaps you should ask the NIcaraguan saints _and_ look at the effect before judging Reagan. Perhaps not living in a communist state would make life easier on a LDS person?

  25. Kristine: thanks for the tips. I’ll add them to my list. :)

    oh, re: incentives. so, let’s give you a hypo, you tell me what to do.

    You go to McD. Guy out front needs food. what do you do?

    You see guy again latter that day, and he says he was jumped & got separated from his girlfriend. what do you do?

    you see guy again, when he calls you to say he found his girlfriend. they both reek & haven’t slept in a bed in weeks. what do you do?

    sum: i don’t think people’s lives are anecdotes. i think that is the only way to examine the _real_ impact of politics & policy. and note, i’m the only one whom i know of…even among my uber-liberal friends, who can correctly answer the questions i pose to you above.

  26. Kristine: I suspect some of your puzzlement comes from the fact that you mistake the language of incentives for a kind of twisted language of desert. Hence, one might argue against giving the poor benefit X not on the ground that they are undeserving of X, but on the ground that doing so creates bad incentives for future behavior. The problem is that frequently our intuitions about desert and incentive point in differing directions and negotiating the difference is difficult. The question is can we adopt a blithely Kantian disregard for the incentives that our actions create and operate merely in terms of desert. This is certainly a respectable position to take, but it is in its own way just as scary as the let-a-generation-starve-for-long-term-benefits approach.

  27. LOL! Steve, that cracked me up. Those equations you wrote looked good on the face of them but obviously you were mixed up and somehow got them reversed. :)

  28. Lyle, first of all I can’t believe I’m letting you troll me like this. That being said….

    It’s a cheap trick, because it implies that the claim is false unless a high standard of specific proof is supplied, in appropriately limiting the potential proofs to firsthand accounts. If you really want to see people ragging on Reagan, it’s not hard to find the specific proof you want. Try the recent articles on Slate (msn.slate.com), or perhaps Google. Believe me, they’re out there, although I don’t want them posted here.

    My suspicion, however, is that you don’t really want personal accounts of people who hate Reagan. What you want is to try and stump someone by ‘challenging’ them to provide personal accounts that you suspect won’t be easily obtainable. That’s why it’s a cheap debate trick, because it’s designed to waste time instead of truly discuss something.

    Even worse, you’re trying to turn this into a Reagan debate, which it isn’t, instead of really addressing the more interesting points of Zion and patriotism, which you haven’t.

  29. Kristine says:

    Lyle, I do actually know people who were negatively impacted by Reagan’s policies. I’m sure we could trade anecdotes for days. But that’s a pretty useless way to conduct an argument.

    If you’re seriously interested in the personal voices of poor people during the halcyon days of the Reagan administration, you should read Jonathan Kozol–_Rachel and her Children_ is good, as is _Amazing Grace_. I’ll look forward to your book reports.

  30. Lyle, that’s a cheap debating trick. Having Kristine find someone to explain personally how Reagan made them worse off? That’s not a challenge, that’s a junior high-level attack.

  31. Kristine says:

    Nate, that’s exactly it, and very well put. Most discussions I hear of this aren’t at that level, though–when the nuance gets lost, it quickly sounds very mean-spirited to say, “well, if I help her today, I’ll have to help her again tomorrow.” The other problem for me with that logic is that it requires the helper to make a judgment about how the other person will behave in response to the incentive, and those judgments so often proceed from the assumption that people won’t improve, won’t behave in the best possible way with what they’re given. Of course, those are often the correct assumptions, as borne out by people’s behavior, but I wonder if the gospel requires us to proceed from the most optimistic possible assumptions, since we can’t actually know whether or when people will experience a change of heart and become better than they were.

  32. Kristine says:

    Nate, you’re right again; always using the best possible assumptions would make lousy social policy and probably bankrupt the country pretty quickly. But choosing a “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” as your model also makes lousy policy. Maybe the rational actor model could be the fortuitous middle, maybe not.

    Do you think King Benjamin’s address has any useful implications for social policy? Or should it be bracketed as applying exclusively to individual behavior (or historicised as appropriate to the social context in which it was given but not to here and now…?)

    (NB: This is a completely sincere question, with no accusations or ad hominems (ad homines?) implied or intended; earlier snarkiness notwithstanding)

  33. Pop psychology: People tend to respond emotionally to people and stories more than to abstract principles and logical proofs. This simple observation explains a lot about how we structure history to relate to our past, whether as patriotism or as testimony.

    FDR personifies the New Deal and the emergence of the big, caring liberal state. Reagan personifies resurgent conservative politics and a robust US economic recovery. Obviously, many people direct their patriotism (a principle) at a charismatic leader (Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan). That’s okay if it doesn’t go too far.

    But carried to an extreme, this habit of personification can turn into hero worship. Institutionally, loyalty to individuals (especially leaders) can displace adherence to the principles on which the institution was founded.

    The trick for followers is to give leaders (of all sorts) the respect they are due, yet not fall into the personal loyalty trap. Of course, some leaders help their followers keep a healthy perspective, while others play the personal loyalty card for all its worth. You can guess which style of leadership I endorse. Anytime someone starts talking in solemn tones about how your obligation of personal loyalty means you have to do something you might not be inclined to do on principle, it’s a fair bet they’ve lost some perspective.

  34. So Gary, nationalism/patriotism is a kind of shorthand method for teaching values of loyalty, honor, etc.? I guess I can see how that would function, but ultimately is that an effective method? I mean, do those primary values ever really get incorporated, or is it only to the extent they come up in political discourse?

  35. steve, i’m not a troll. i’m serious. tis a serious & fair question. And I want answers, not delay debate & make the other look clueless, as I point out…it shouldn’t be hard to get. sidebenefit: it also makes it easier, w/personal data, to:
    1. distinguish incentive from desert
    2. and also to avoid long debating over over-arching concepts & avoid the individuals on the ground. This is about individuals, right?

  36. Steve, Kris, et al,

    I’m not a big Reagan fan. Still, I think that statements like “perhaps not to the Church members in Nicaragua” are a little too facile. Can’t similar statements be made about, well, everyone?

    You know, Clinton was a great president, except to people in Waco. Truman was a great president, except to people in Hiroshima. And so forth.

    There are undoubntedly discrete, indentifiable groups that have been made worse by every president. Probably by every major figure. Is the mere existence of such groups sufficient to cast aspersions?

  37. Steve:

    please explain how asking someone for evidence and/or facts, rather than rhetoric…which Kristine has spent this thread complaining about, is a _cheap trick_?

    If the concern is that we are all talking about “optimism” & “Patriotism” & ignoring the individual…I’m just bringing us back to reality & asking that we talk about individuals.

    I for one, can give you lots of quotes from individuals whose lives were _positively_ changed because of Pres. Reagan. I don’t think it is too much to ask for the same from those who disagree, is it?

    I happen to be the one, or one of the ones (lol) who are targetted with “near blashphemy”. So, I’d like to learn & listen about how off I am. And since grand themes have been declared off limits by Kristine, I’m just asking for some personal stories.

  38. Gary Lee says:

    Steve: I think it is sometimes a proxy for those values. Many people can emotionally relate to their country in the same that athletes relate to their their particular team. They can motivated to sacrifice for the benefit of the country because it is their team. If you tried to motivate those same people by appealing to their sense of justice without bringing in the concept of country or team, they may find it too abstract to motivate them to do anything useful. I believe that some good may come from that, and that people may indeed learn good values as a result. However, it is not the celestial law, and it is fraught with danger. The line between patriotism and nationalism is easily crossed.

  39. Steve: No. I’m serious, & not a serious troll. I tried to be clear that I want personal data because:
    1. “how little the Reagan-loving non-pundits I encounter (among my friends, in the foyer at church, etc.) actually discuss his policies, but instead wax effusive about his “optimism,” his ability to “make us feel good about America.”
    2. If I wanted to be obstructionist, I would do so. I’m not trying to stump Kristine, just move the debate in a direction that she clearly calls for…if not demands; even though I admit it is in the opposite direction of the one requested (i.e. anti vs. pro-).
    3. I’ll co-opt Nate’s desert/incentive talk. Personal data makes distinguishing between “punishment” & “incentives” & “reward”.

    re: patriotism vs. nationalism. Hm…you might be right. I’ll have to re-read the original post. I might have missed the forest for the big sequoi tree hoisted up as an example of the forest. however, as a so-called “patriot,” I don’t think that I am blind, or ignore, the faults of any of our presidents. I prefer to think on the positive. Was Patrick Henry uncharitable because he said “liberty or death”? Maybe he truly only meant “liberty or death, unless you will put food in my belly?”

  40. Ultimately, the ‘right’ argument seems to be evolving for patriotism along BoM lines, where patriotism is good so long as the country is following God’s principles. That leads me to believe that no patriotism will be completely desirable. Now, if Zion is seen as a nation, I guess we’d have some pretty strong arguments to be nationalistic in favor of Zion. Certainly the early LDS did, and it got them into a whole mess of trouble.

    Can we draw parallels between patriotism and religious fervor, then, especially w/ regards to what Kristine mentions about idolizing a specific leader? At the jubilee on Saturday, several rows of young women behind me screamed and cried upon sighting the prophet. It was like Beatlemania, and made me think about our reliance on the prophet not just as a spiritual guidepost but as a pop icon.

    And re: Karen’s last comment (welcome back, Karen!): I see the inherent benefits of ardent patriotism in times of war — unifying the troops, greasing the wheels of the machine so that productions isn’t perturbed, etc. Is it possible that wartime necessitates patriotism? After all, who would fight for America if they didn’t believe in America?

  41. D. Fletcher says:

    You were there, Kristine? I might have met you.

    Where’s the report of the Temple festivities?