Robert Reich: What's the True Meaning of Patriotism?

07_05_Patriotism_Reich_01
People watch fireworks during the 4th of July Independence Day celebrations at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Robert Reich writes that real patriotism isn’t cheap. It requires being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad. Carlos Barria/reuters

This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

We talk a lot about patriotism, especially around July 4, but we need also to take to heart its five basic principles.

First: True patriotism isn't simply about waving the American flag. And it's not mostly about securing our borders, putting up walls and keeping others out.

It's about coming together for the common good.

Second: Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going—being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad. Not just voting but becoming politically active, volunteering time and energy to improving this country.

Third: Patriotism is about preserving, fortifying and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money and buying off politicians. It means defending the right to vote and ensuring more Americans are heard, not fewer.

Fourth: True patriots don't hate the government of the United States. They're proud of their country and know the government is a tool to help us solve problems together. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve our government, not destroy it.

Finally, patriots don't pander to divisiveness. They don't fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions. They aren't homophobic or sexist or racist.

To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen and celebrate the "we" in "we the people of the United States."

Robert Reich is the chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.

Robert Reich: What's the True Meaning of Patriotism? | Opinion