Aleksander Solzhenitsyn has a number of things to say about patriotism, in the light of prior discussions, e.g., with Mr Schraub, I thought it might be interesting to highlight a few of his points.
- Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty a short time ago, wondered at the “strange trajectory” of the word patriotism. He notes that there has been a movement away from older notions of patriotism to one indicating approval of a particular regime. Mr Solzhenitsyn on the other hand (as quoted by Mahoney):
Patriotism is a constant reminder of the sacral dimension of any civic community, however secular in inspiration. Even today, many ordinary citizens of the Western democracies remain old-fashioned patriots. The instinctively reject the abstract “constitutional patriotism” put forward by intellectuals like Jurgen Habermas, who reduce national loyalty to the acceptance of procedural political forms.
- I think it likely that noting the distaste liberals have for patriotism, that they are the ones more likely to be thinking (wrongly) that patriotism is loyalty to political forms and not “sacral dimensions of the civic community”.
- Now, my argument/discussion with Mr Schraub was over statements of patriotism, especially on national holidays like Memorial Day and Independence day. Mr Schraub is, in my opinion, to conscious of another emphasis Solzhenitsyn has to make regarding patriotism, that being repentence. Sozhenitsyn is very conscious of the notion of a national, communal need for penitence for wrongs done … and he’s also clear that all nations have such a need.
- National repentance and self-limitation is an important facet of Solzhenitsyn’s political argument. Indeed repentance is an emotional quality which Solzhenitsyn finds very important. Solzhenitsyn says of repentance, that is a uniquely human emotion and stresses it’s importance for individuals as well as nations.
- As far as refusing to ever express unabashed patriotism, as Mr Schraub claims he must do, while I think such sentiments are necessary, I don’t think they need to flavor all national events and days. In fact, I think going that far is an error. Taking the analogy with the very penitential nature of the Eastern Orthodox church, a penitential attitude and repentance flavors most of the year. However, it is set aside for the Paschal celebration, indeed for the 5 weeks of Pascha, prostration and kneeling is forbidden. There is a time for repentence. But it is not … all the time.