I heard the term "passive patriotism" used a few weeks ago while watching a news segment featuring guests featured in the usual Brady Bunch-style boxes. Although I couldn't read the name of the man making his observation, his use of the reference was made angrily in discussing the events surrounding the football players kneeling during the presentation of the American flag and national anthem as well as the congresswoman who listened in on a condolence call made by President Donald Trump to a widow.
In short, he argued that while Americans have the right to protest, speak and offer opposing views, too many only offered lip service to supporting the military and standing with our national values but claimed their support of the kneelers was not against very fabric of America. Yet, their words and deeds only yielded passive patriotism that was essentially outright opposition.
That 30-second opinion provoked my curiosity. I began reading about patriotism and this idea of "passive patriotism."
Starting with the term patriotism, I found Merriam-Webster broadly defines it as the "love for or devotion to one's country." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy expands the meaning: "Patriotism can be defined as love of one's country, identification with it, and special concern for its well-being and that of compatriots. Peggy Noonan, author, President Ronald Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist, offered this definition in a lecture almost two decades ago, "What is patriotism? We all know what it is. It is love of country. It is pride in what a country stands for and was founded on. It is the full-throated expression of that love and that pride."
Now, the term passive. The accepted definition by Merriam-Webster is the state of being influenced by external agency, open to external forces or not active or operating.
Passive patriotism, as I initially understood the way it was used in the wounded warrior's remarks, was aimed at those who only give voice to support of certain acts of patriotism, such as military service and the ceremonial presentation of the colors at events, among other patriotic expressions. I missed that his use included the idea of overt resistance. But, I was enlightened as I read an almost century-old text, from of all places, the Journal of the National Dental Association.
A banquet held to honor the first U.S. Army Dental Corps chief, a doctor of both dentistry and medicine, Col. William H.G. Logan, included remarks printed in the journal's August 1919 edition. Titled "The Professional Man and His Patriotic Duty," the salutary remarks addressed this very topic, active versus passive patriotism. The citation reads: "The active is positive, creative, enduring. The passive is negative pseudo, ephemeral, a sham and deceit."
After reading and rereading the complete brief, I had a different view of passive patriotism. While words may be used to pay homage or pacify the need to fulfill an appearance, in reality, there's nothing passive about patriotism. Like pregnancy, you either are or you are not.
While there are true disagreements that serve our nation, its people and its government, there are also truths as reliable as the laws of nature undergirding our liberty. Defending and guarding the essential truths of our freedoms involve action, either to support or resist. There's no passivity.
Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, owns Rivers Edge Alliance.