Patriotic means

Patriotism is complicated. It involves pride certainly, but beyond that, agreement can be hard to find.

For some, only those who show unconditional allegiance to country can be considered patriots, while others believe it is patriotic to protest when their country acts in ways with which they disagree. Such conflicting viewpoints have often been brought into view during times of national disagreement, such as the protests over the Vietnam War.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the playing of the national anthem has brought such disagreements to the fore once more, and it has prompted members of the news media to turn to Professor of Political Science Gerard Huiskamp for perspective on the debate.

USA Today culled competing viewpoints on Kaepernick’s action from social media and asked Professor Huiskamp to comment on the ideas underlying the controversy. In his scholarly work, the professor often distinguishes between perspectives on loyalty to country as “deferential” and “inquisitive” patriotism and described the latter as a dedication to national ideals.

We tend to think of patriotism as love of country that is linked to larger principles. When we think about America we think of virtue, of our freedom, democracy, a land of opportunity. We are not allegiant to the soil, but we are allegiant to these underlying principles – and this is a notion that goes way back.

Professor Huiskamp points out that the roots of inquisitive patriotism run deep, citing Enlightenment philosopher Edmund Burke, who mused on the loyalty that citizens owed to the state in his work Reflections on the Revolution in France.

“To make us love our country,” Huiskamp said, quoting Burke, “our country ought to be lovely.”

Presumably, Burke would approve of Kaepernick’s decision.


Reflections on patriotism: a conversation with Professor of Political Science Gerard Huiskamp (Wheaton Quarterly, Fall 2015).