In my humble experience, Europeans are often alternately surprised but fearful, perhaps a little admiring but usually disdainful of American idealism when it pops out. Some of it is quite logical given their interests and histories, other times it can be due to mere unthinking prejudice. Perhaps many U.S. academics share some of these characteristics…as our author points out:
‘The liberal elites of whom I speak witness public displays of patriotism amongst the masses and fear that that kind of patriotism is tantamount to nationalism, and it leads to war and totalitarianism because it persuades the benighted masses to defend their country and support their leaders without question. Flags and lapel pins and the pledge of allegiance, not to mention Memorial Day and Independence Day, are just so many pieces of propaganda that serve to raise children in automatic loyalty to the machinery of the state.’
That’s a little dramatic, but point taken that those those past a certain point on the Left, academic or not, often become unaware of actual human nature, including their own, and have a large blind spot extending from a benighted vision of certain Enlightenment ideals being realized. Patriotism, of course, can be a simple good; fellow feeling and common suffering united by patriotism a source of pride. It can also be a useful tool for a politician, or a force that pushes a nation into war. Of course, in Europe, there is usually a much more entrenched Left politically, and more public sentiment for such a view as described above (as well as less free, less healthy movement between hard nationalistic right and impossibly ideal left, which I hope would be enough to cause many Americans to stop and reflect).
‘But let us grant that there are some on the Far Right who turn a blind eye to the faults of the country — if others will grant that the Far Left turns a blind eye to America’s virtues and achievements.’
Fair enough. And:
‘Patriotism, in my definition, is a love of country that comprehends the country’s faults as well as its virtues, and that compels criticism of government when it ill-serves the country and support of government when it serves the country well. ‘
Reasonable enough, though I am sympathetic to the effort to highlight the failure of some of our most important institutions to not walk down the paths of diversity, equality and excessive egalitarianism without stronger consideration of the logic behind these ideas and the people driving the change; the merits and dangers to public life and our institutions.
Here’s a quote from Schopenhauer I put up before.
‘-Patriotism, when it wants to make itself felt in the domain of learning, is a dirty fellow who should be thrown out of doors.’
Food for thought.
Related On This Site: Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity. She’s not a friend to religion guiding the laws: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’
Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…
Strauss and the Chicago School figure in modern conservative thought as well and the current libertarian resurgence: Two Monday Quotations From Keeping The Tablets
Noam Chomsky takes philosophical idealism to another level: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?