Never have I read a Maine Voices column as unintellectual and divisive as Roger Bowen’s Aug. 3 screed, “Any American can be a patriot without being a nationalist,” which labels Donald Trump and his supporters as too dumb to understand Samuel Johnson’s famous quote “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Bowen says nationalists have “blind loyalty” to the country, “mindlessly obey orders,” butcher villagers and send people to death camps, whereas patriots are “critical thinkers,” safeguard our national values, assist victims of nationalists’ excesses and care for their neighbors. There’s a barnyard term for such tripe.

More-nuanced analyses of the interface between patriotism and nationalism are available had Bowen, a liberal academic and former college president, been intellectually curious. But he chose to attack.

“Scoundrels tend to glorify” national symbols, he writes. “Scoundrels.” Let the word sink in and try to attach it to countless Americans known only to God who’ve drawn their last breath on distant battlefields with the vision of Old Glory emblazoned on their fading consciousness. Social scientist Samuel Huntington had Bowen-types in mind when he wrote of the “denationalized elites” who, in the words of National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry, “since the 1960s and 1970s … (have) waged war on the nation and its common culture.” These are the elites who loathe those who glory in our nation’s symbols, and who dishonor the call to service, the flag, the anthem, national monuments, the Constitution and the president – and still claim to be patriots.

I submit that nationalism is patriotism’s necessary spine. Perhaps Bowen is technically correct saying you can be a patriot without being a nationalist. But before long such timid “patriots,” shorn of their nationalist spine, will have no country to love. There may indeed be scoundrels afoot. But they are found these days among the “denationalized elites” of the hate-America left.


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