Teaching Love of Country: Voting

[It] is an endlessly fascinating question, what American patriotism really means today. One can love his country despite its philosophy, provided there is more to the country than its philosophy. Yet it is surely a sign of the impoverishment of common culture and the common good—and an index of the degree to which liberal order has succeeded in establishing itself as both—that we are virtually required to equate love of country with devotion to the animating philosophy of the regime rather than to, say, the tales of our youth, the lay of the land and the bend in the road, and ‘peace and quiet and good tilled earth.’

~From Michael Hanby’s “The Civic Project of American Christianity

It is counterintuitive to most Americans that love of country does not not necessarily mean a deep and abiding love for the State; that is, a love for the particular ruling body or apparatus of the United States. And yet, if all we could deeply cherish and love about our homeland was wrapped up solely in the government, then what poor lovers—and beloved!—we would be and have, indeed

So this is what we’re trying to teach our children: to value their home, to love the land on which they are raised, to appreciate and to know its history. This does not mean, say, that they must recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. It also does not mean that they should venerate and honor every person or event that is part of our shared past. Of course not. But they should know American history, and the pledge, and things like it, as knowledge about and understanding of our community’s civic and cultural heritage.

Voting is part of that heritage. I went and voted this morning, on this very bright and crisp, snow-covered morning, at the local Community Health Center. I am not optimistic about voting as a fix to our cultural and social divisions; if anything, it oversimplifies and exacerbates them, if campaign season is any indicator. But I am grateful, simply grateful, for the opportunity to vote in my community. This is not an invaluable right. Most people in the world have not or cannot exercise it, but we can. This can and should be an act, however small, that we cherish. And I hope my children learn their responsibility as citizens to be informed voters, and to also cherish that right when they come of age.

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