With 4th of July festivities under way and flags and tri-colored streamers filling the air, it is a good time to consider the much-maligned virtue of patriotism. Along with many other natural affections, patriotism has been staggered by successive blows from modernism, which sees such emotions as irrational and useless, and postmodernism, which sees them as dangerous.
For sterile, scientific modernism, the idea of having particular pride in one’s country is simply absurd. After all, one’s place of birth is mere happenstance. Every nation has its merits and demerits, and comparison between our own country and the rest of the world will never be entirely complementary. As Virginia Woolf wrote grimly of her own land, those tempted to an irrational local enthusiasm should “compare English painting with French painting; English music with German music; English literature with Greek literature… When all these comparisons have been faithfully made by the use of reason, the outsider will find herself in possession of very good reasons for her indifference.”