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I con­sider myself a patriot. But I will never be a nation­alist, much less a know-nothing nativist . There’s a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence. How­ever, con­flating the two is all too common an activity.

I’m going to make a highly fugi­tive claim: Maybe what most lib­eral pro­gres­sives and con­ser­v­a­tive tra­di­tion­al­ists fun­da­men­tally want and value isn’t all that dif­ferent. Maybe what most divides us isn’t ends, but means.

Let’s begin with what one needn’t believe to be a patriot.

One doesn’t need to believe that America is uniquely excep­tional. One doesn’t need to believe that Amer­i­cans are uniquely right­eous. One doesn’t need to believe that America is uniquely ordained and blesséd of God to be some shining city on a hill, empire of lib­erty, or the last best hope on earth.

One doesn’t need to believe Amer­i­cans are more or less brave or free than other peo­ples in other soci­eties that share the the values of courage and lib­erty. Being a patriot isn’t about win­ning a con­test to be the best, the brightest, the strongest, or the most influential.

So what is it to be patriot?

To love and work to better one’s nation for its people and their future’s sake.

I love the country of my birth. I love the soil out of which I was sprung. I am a Penn­syl­vanian. I am an Amer­ican. I have hope that the people of this country can be good, that they can be great, and that our con­sti­tu­tion, our laws, and our civic tra­di­tions can serve that good­ness and greatness.

I do not believe they are beyond reproach, beyond crit­i­cism, beyond improve­ment and amend­ment and change. I do not believe that you can love them without also fighting for them to be the best and most just that they can be.

I am hopeful that ref­or­ma­tion hap­pens and our exec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive, and judi­cial appa­ra­tuses will someday soon allow us to fairly con­duct the busi­ness of demo­c­ratic gov­ern­ment, of dif­fering but over­coming dif­fer­ence to enact and enforce laws that serve and pro­tect us all.

I think this elec­tion is proof that many of us can agree on one thing: our polity is broken, under­mined by unde­mo­c­ratic influ­ences. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both rep­re­sent a public rejec­tion of estab­lish­ment cor­rup­tion and donoth­ing­ness at the expense of the people. We can many of us agree on that, at least.

But, that agree­ment aside, I would like to remark on how our dif­fer­ences and dis­agree­ments do not make one party or the other unAmer­ican or unpa­tri­otic, specif­i­cally how what I believe as a lib­eral pro­gres­sive doesn’t exclude or sub­vert or deny many of the values held by conservatives.

You can be provin­cial: tied in your heart to your nation, your state, your county, your city or town. You can also be cos­mopolitan: familiar, at ease, and respectful of the value of other cul­tures, other peo­ples, and other ways.

You can be an indi­vid­u­alist and also a col­lec­tivist. Society implies that every sin­gular is a com­po­nent of a plu­rality and every plu­rality is com­posed of sin­gu­lars. Much as I believe the the­o­log­ical fight over “I” or “We” in the Nicene Creed among my fellow Epis­co­palians is a hair­split­ting con­ceit, I believe that indi­vid­uals cannot exist apart from the col­lec­tive or that the col­lec­tive is nothing if not a con­sti­tu­tion of indi­vid­uals. They are not only not mutu­ally exclu­sive, the one idea neces­si­tates the other.

You can respect, honor, and value law enforce­ment offi­cers and mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers and at the same time crit­i­cize poli­cies and prac­tices that have given police offi­cers immu­nity from the law or have used sol­diers to fur­ther abhor­rent for­eign poli­cies. And you can also respect the expe­ri­ence of those who may as vic­tims of that immu­nity and those poli­cies feel hard-pressed to share your respect.

You can believe in mar­kets, and entre­pre­neur­ship, and prof­itable busi­ness. You can believe that they are nec­es­sary to supply the goods and ser­vices that we need and desire; while also believing that there are cer­tain goods and ser­vices that can be more justly man­aged by laws rather than mar­kets. You can believe in worker’s rights and con­sumer pro­tec­tions, without dis­avowing employers and industries.

You can believe in hard work and per­sonal respon­si­bility and also believe in ensuring the wel­fare of all. You can be both a cap­i­talist and socialist, and all the while uphold repub­lican democ­racy. You likely already are without even real­izing it.

You can believe in the value of banking and lending and invest­ment and insur­ance, without giving license to usury, preda­tory behav­iors, price gouging, dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, and bor­der­line if not actual fraud.

You can believe in the promise of Amer­ican polity and still believe that it’s pos­sible to improve it, build upon it, rein­ter­pret it, all without ret­ro­gres­sive orig­i­nalism or nativism, racism, sexism, or any ‑ismic extremity.

You can be many things at once, because patri­o­tism is not an either – or set of cri­teria. There is nothing unAmer­ican, because America stands atop cod­i­fied rights and lib­er­ties that eschew the very idea of unAmericanness.

When Sam. Johnson said (and there’s nothing wrong with quoting an Eng­lishman), “Patri­o­tism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” he meant those who mis­take their own inter­ests for the common good and use nation­alism as an impen­e­trable flag of impunity to wrap them­selves in, rhetor­i­cally reducing all else to treason.

A true patriot upholds the inter­ests of the com­mon­wealth in the name of the com­mon­wealth for the sake of the com­mon­wealth; of the people, by the people, for the people.