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decline in patriotism

The Decline in Patriotism 

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The Wall Street Journal has conducted a poll with the most interesting results. From 1998 to the present, the percentage of Americans who say that patriotism is an important value has crashed from 70 percent to 38 percent. The bulk of the fall has happened since 2019. More results will be discussed in a bit but let’s first focus on this issue of patriotism. 

The poll doesn’t define for the respondents what patriotism is but reflect on the word. It can mean love of country and homeland. It’s perhaps true that this has fallen. That’s believable since the US in three years ceased to place freedom as a first principle. 

Indeed, there is a growing cultural movement, extending from academia to the mainstream, that encourages loathing of American history and its achievements. No “founding father” is safe from being called the worst-possible names. Hatred of this country has risen to be an expected norm. But the problem goes deeper even.

When you are locked in your home, your business is closed, your church is shut, your neighbors are screaming at you to mask up, then the doctors come at you with shots you don’t want, and you are further prevented from leaving the country to anywhere but Mexico, and the president calls the unvaccinated enemies of the people, sure, one can imagine that affections for the homeland decline. 

But there is another important pillar of patriotism. It is about trust in the civic institutions of the country. These include schools, courts, politics, and all the institutions of government at all levels. Civic trust in these are surely at rock bottom. The courts did not protect us. The schools shut, particularly the public ones which are supposed to be the crowning achievement of Progressive ideology. Our doctors turned on us. 

And let’s say that we consider the media to be part of civic culture. It has been that way since at least FDR’s Fireside Chats. It’s always been the mouthpiece for what we are supposed to be thinking about as a people. The media too turned on regular people for three years, calling our parties super-spreader events, jeering pastors who held worship services, demonizing live concerts, and screaming at everyone to stay home and stay glued to the tube. 

Yes, such evil antics tend to lessen public respect for all the institutions involved, especially when objections to these policies were censored by all the institutions we were supposed to trust with our data and friend networks. They turned out to be wholly owned too. 

All the while, public support for patriotism was abused to deny fundamental rights and liberties. Patriotism was supposed to mean staying home and staying safe, masking up, social distancing, complying with every random edict no matter how ridiculous, and finally getting jabbed once, twice, three times, and more forever, despite the lack of medical vulnerability for vast swaths of the public. 

The Constitution became a dead letter for a time. It still is, as visitors from other countries cannot even enter our borders lest they too submit to the shots made and distributed by companies that provide half the budget of the agencies requiring everyone to comply. 

And this was all supposed to be necessary because of what was obviously a seasonal respiratory infection, a fact we knew at least a month before the lockdowns began. We could read about it in all mainstream venues. Don’t panic, they said, just trust your doctor. But with lockdowns, they also took away from the doctor the liberty of treating patients with therapeutics known to be effective against exactly this sort of virus. 

Instead, we were expected to put all of normal life on hold and wait for the magic antidote that was supposedly on the way. When it didn’t arrive until after the hated president was unseated, it turned out not to be an antidote at all. At best it was a temporary palliative against severe outcomes. It certainly did not stop infection or spread. All that happened anyway, which makes the point that the huge sacrifices made in the name of patriotism were all for naught. 

We should in no way be surprised that the public these days is not feeling very patriotic. And yes, this is very sad in many ways. But it is also what happens when patriotism is hijacked by the state and industry to shatter our hopes and dreams. We tend to learn from our errors. So when the pollsters come around and ask if we are feeling patriotic, it’s hardly unusual that people would respond: not really. 

And we could say the same about the other poll result: the importance of religion has fallen from 62 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2022. Again the bulk of the crash happened after 2019. No question that the nation was already trending secular. But what are we to think when two successive seasons of Easter and Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) were canceled by the civic elites with full cooperation from the mainstream of religious leaders? 

The whole point of religion is to reach outside the mundane world of civic culture into the realm of the transcendent in order to see and live by truth. But when transcendent concerns are replaced by fear and secular compliance, the religion loses credibility. If you want to find people who still believe, you can in groups that are truly serious about faith: the Hasidim, Amish, traditionalist Catholics, and Mormons. But in mainline denominations, not so much. Like media, tech, and government, they turned out to be captured too. 

In the final results of the poll, the importance of having children went from 59 percent to 39 percent and the importance of community involvement peaked at 62 at the height of lockdowns to fall to an astounding 27 percent. 

Again, the culprit here seems pretty obvious: it was the pandemic response. All the policies were structured to shatter human relationships. People are nothing but disease vectors. Stay away from everyone. Don’t become a super-spreader by daring to hang around others. Be alone. Be lonely. That’s the only proper way. 

Finally, among the only things that are rising concern the importance of money. That’s probably because real income has been declining for the better part of two years and inflation is gutting our standards of living. Once again, pandemic policies are the culprit. They spent trillions and the money printers matched that spending nearly dollar for dollar, watering down the value of a previously reliable currency. 

The trouble with the survey is not the numbers but the interpretation. This is being seen as some weird fog of nihilism and greed that has mysteriously slipped over the population, as if it were an entirely organic trend over which no one has any control. That’s wrong. There is a definite cause and it all traces to the same egregious policies without precedent. We still do not have honesty about what happened. And until we get it, we cannot repair the grave damage to the culture or the national soul. 

We are living in crisis times but that crisis has an identifiable cause and hence solution. Until we can speak frankly about it, the situation can only get worse. 



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Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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