I noticed a large American flag outside the home of a neighbor, marking this fateful anniversary. My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was to wonder if there might be a Trump voter in my nice liberal neighborhood. But then I thought, hey it’s my flag, too.
As we head into 2020, it’s time for a serious game of capture the flag. Patriotism is too valuable to leave to Donald Trump and the far right. But let’s define it properly.
Patriotism today means an America that is once again a beacon to the world, and not the world’s laughingstock. Economic patriotism means operating trade and industrial policies to reclaim jobs and industries using technologies invented here, and to develop new ones.
Republicans have allowed multinational corporations to give away those industries and jobs, abetted by trade policies supported by too many Democrats. (Corporations may be “citizens,” but it’s hard to find less of a patriot than a U.S.-based multinational.)
Patriotism, progressive style, means massive investment in our public systems, so we can be proud once again of American infrastructure. Instead, our public facilities are museum pieces.
After World War II, everyone was a patriot. Not only had American military might defeated the Axis, but the war effort had modernized the U.S. economy. The great public works of the Roosevelt era were a wonder.
During the Vietnam protests, when some radicals were burning flags, the venerable socialist leader Norman Thomas objected: Don’t burn the flag, wash it. Amen.
Progressive patriotism has some catch-up work—to extend the idealistic promises of the Constitution to Americans of all races once and for all. Then we can be fully proud of America with no asterisks or footnotes. We might even make America great again.