Over at Berkley's Greater Good, writer Jeremy Adam Smith discusses what he calls "compassionate patriotism." Even though patriotism can lead to the dehumanization of outsiders, it can also breed altruism. Drawing on the research of moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Smith points out that one of the five foundational moral values in human beings is ingroup loyalty. Smith is certainly short-changing political conservatives by describing patriotism as "a special property of the Right" due to their "morality rest[ing] upon the Loyalty foundation." This is especially true given that Haidt thinks "conservatives have a more accurate understanding of human nature than do liberals," drawing on all five values rather than just two (i.e. Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity) like political liberals.
Nonetheless, Smith provides four ways to avoid the negative effects of patriotism:
- Make love of humanity an explicit goal.
- Teach that compassion and empathy are unlimited resources.
- Extend self-compassion to America.
- Embrace authentic, not hubristic, pride.
So, this July 4, be proud of your country. Be compassionate toward it. Then, take that compassion and place it within the larger context of global humanity. Happy 4th everyone.
And with that, Jimi Hendrix.
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 174.
2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters: Complete in One Volume (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 122.
3. See John Dickson, Humilitas: A Lost Key to Love, Life, and Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).