Who is a patriot?

Updated: Jan 24

Precinct caucuses are going ahead, as required by statute, on February 1. We are grateful to the state DFL for giving us the option of a work-around that will keep our people safe from the raging omicron surge. Our “contactless” caucuses will regrettably dispense with the opportunity to gather with our like-minded neighbors, but we will do what is needed to prepare for the next step, which is the county convention scheduled for April 23. If you haven’t done so already, you should visit claycountydfl.org/caucus to learn how to participate.

Predictably, the Republicans are throwing caution to the wind and meeting en masse, and no doubt maskless. If they behave like the character in their ad, it could become a superspreader event. But, by golly, isn’t that what freedom is all about?

That ad has inspired me. In the second installment of my series on resisting the labels that Republicans put on us, I take on the notion that Republicans have some kind of monopoly on patriotism. What, after all, is a true patriot?

First off, I would argue that a true patriot is someone who, out of respect for her fellow citizens, is willing to sacrifice for the common good. The sacrifice we are called upon to make these days is to take whatever steps are necessary to slow the spread of the virus. Wearing masks is a nuisance, but we do it, not so much to protect ourselves as to protect others.

In addition, a true American patriot believes in democracy and is committed to securing it. Free and fair elections and an uncorrupted political process are the cornerstones of democratic process. While Democrats are not above criticism for the role that money plays in our politics, is there any question which party poses the greatest threat to democracy today?

On the other hand, there are groups on the far right that style themselves as the “Patriot” movement. The Anti-Defamation League defines it as “a set of related extremist movements and groups in the United States whose ideologies center on … a conviction that part or all of the government has been infiltrated and subverted by a malignant conspiracy and is no longer legitimate.” People identified with this movement were heavily involved in the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.

Now, I’m not alleging that the local Republican party is directly affiliated with the “Patriot” movement. I do believe, however, that their posturing is pulling that party further and further toward the extremists. For example, a recent Washington Post poll, taken almost on the anniversary of January 6, found that “One in three Americans believe violence against the government is sometimes justified.” That view is eerily close to the position of the militia movement, one of the main wings of the so-called “Patriot” movement.

Implying that people who consider themselves patriots should necessarily align with the Republican party is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Let’s engage in the democratic process and show ourselves to be true patriots indeed.


Paul Harris



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