Is patriotism obsolete? A borderless world will lead to nothing but chaos

Over the years, I gradually realized that patriotism is the emotional glue that holds us together. 

During the Vietnam War, I decided that patriotism was useless. It clouds rational thinking and drives nations into foolish conflict, I thought. Fifty years later, I’ve completely changed my mind.

It was a gradual realization, that patriotism is the emotional glue that holds us together. It’s not just singing the national anthem at football games or whipping ourselves into war fury. Pride in America is the reason we care about each other, about poverty, injustice and trash in our streets.

But Ken Burns’ documentaries on America were what moved me from an intellectual understanding of patriotism to a heartfelt recognition of my own. Watching the “Civil War” series, I felt connected to both sides. And I realized: These are my people and our story, and we share both their shame and their triumph.

And with their story, I’ve inherited a huge obligation to those who built America, who forged the bonds of union with their blood and sweat, and stayed focused on the ideal, that all men are created equal. We are a remarkable nation, with a remarkable story.

I don’t know how long before immigrants would share these feelings, but I wouldn’t expect them to feel it immediately. If we decide that patriotism is obsolete, then it probably doesn’t matter if anyone feels it. I think it does.

A while ago, our Chilean exchange student returned from a party with other foreign students, and asked me an astonishing question: “Why do Americans teach their children to hate America?” The foreign students were struck by the extreme negativity, even contempt, toward America from their classmates. I explained: “We set high standards. Self-criticism is good for us.” Her response: “No. All our nations have made mistakes. But we love our country, and we’re proud of who we are.”

Pride in who we are? Is that something we should teach our children?

Many educated elites today are hostile to patriotism. They would argue that we need a global, more inclusive perspective, that our planet is increasingly connected, and that teaching our children to appreciate foreign cultures and foreign peoples is much more important than teaching them pride in America.

Their vision for the future is a borderless world, where individuals freely move about, adapt to new cultures and languages, seeking out the best employment opportunities, ridding themselves of small-minded national loyalities. Which raises the question: If we are free of national loyalty, then where do our obligations lie? Do we turn ourselves into self-interested units, calling ourselves “world citizens”? Or might we spread ourselves a bit thin with that one, disguising the fact that we end up with no deep obligation to anyone in particular? Citizenship is a responsibility that demands time, money and sacrifice; it’s not a “feeling for all mankind.”

Contrary to the globalist view, as described by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, my vision of a world that works is one where groups of people with common values, language and heritage – we might call them “national families” – collectively work together. I cannot see that a borderless world of disconnected, migrating individuals, everyone out for himself, “free” of national loyalities, will lead to anything but chaos. But apparently, many of our educated citizens are intoxicated with the moral beauty of the globalist vision, and quite contemptuous of those who feel patriotism, like people who voted for Donald Trump.

We need to decide: Do we remain a national family with borders, united by patriotism, making the employment and improvement of our own citizens our first priority, or do we turn ourselves into a borderless economic region, based on “migrant rights” and global governance, as articulated by the U.N. Compact on Migration?

If we give up on patriotism and borders, then ancient group identities may emerge. People will identify with one group or another. We could fracture along competing ethnic, racial and class lines. The idea that all men are created equal has united a nation of many cultures for two centuries. But it’s not clear that any ideal, no matter how lofty and inclusive, will override deeper claims of blood, race and religion in a borderless, multicultural world. The bonds of our union are fragile.

Final thoughts from our exchange student. At the end of the year, I asked how she had changed. “I go home with a new feeling of appreciation for my own country. Compared to America, we are small and insignificant, just trying to help our own people. We have nothing to prove,” she said. “Nothing to prove”? What a strange observation from a 17-year-old.


Jonette Christian of Holden, Maine is a member of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Policy.




I, too, naively espoused open borders in my early 20's. Over the years, I realized that every country has not only the right, but indeed the obligation to protect its sovereignty, defend its borders - even from unarmed invasion, and to decide who to admit on the basis of national interest.
I learned about American history and our great Constitution in school. Yet I had to learn on my own why our republic deserves our utmost respect protection. That is, our patriotism.
Today, it's completely the opposite. Children are being taught in school that our founders - that is, "dead white men" - are irrelevant, that our country is a global oppressor, and that we don't deserve the nation we inherited from those who built and defended it.
Similarly, contempt for our great nation is inculcated in the liberal cauldron that we call higher education.
You don't grow up naturally hating your country; it has to be taught to you.
Fred Elbel