Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Since the crushing, truly humiliating defeat that it suffered with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, neoconservatism, at least temporarily, experienced a dramatic reversal of fortunes.

It isn’t, of course, that neoconservatives have gone away; and it certainly isn’t the case that they have lost power and influence in any substantive—as opposed to symbolic—respect.  Still, the sort of standard GOP/neocon agitprop that prevailed during the George W. Bush days, and even into the Obama era, has been less audible in the Age of Trump.

We should not, however, be misled by this into thinking that some of the distinguishing ideas of neoconservatism don’t continue to inform American domestic and, especially, foreign policy. In fact, there is a real sense in which some of these ideas inform the contemporary cultural consciousness.

Within the ideological solar system that is the neoconservative view, there is one idea specifically that is arguably the sun around which all of the others revolve. This is the idea that America itself is an idea—or what is otherwise known as the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” (AE).

AE Considered

What can it mean to say that America (or anything) is an idea or concept or “proposition?”  An idea is an intangible or incorporeal sort of thing.  Ideas, in other words, are without bodies, nonphysical.  They are without borders.  In principle, then, any given idea can be discovered and, hence, endorsed by anyone, irrespectively of culture or history.  One may become consciously aware of an idea at a specific juncture and courtesy of culturally and historically-specific circumstances; but the idea itself, considered as an idea, needn’t owe anything to the contingencies of space and time.

An idea, inasmuch as it is thought to transcend all civilizational differences, is universal.

That the proponents of AE think of America the Idea in just this way is borne out by their insistence that anyone can become an American. We receive confirmation of this as well whenever the members of Respectable Society, both “liberal” and “conservative,” talk about immigration, whether legal or illegal: Although it is only ever recognizable leftists who use the term “undocumented” to describe illegal immigrants, those on the official right implicitly endorse the idea behind this term when they too speak as if the only meaningful difference between immigrants and American citizens is that the former haven’t yet satisfied the formal or legal criteria for American citizenship.

To put it another way, as long as a person affirms America as Idea, then regardless of where that person resides, that person is an American.

When George W. Bush says that “family values” don’t end at the Rio Grande, or Barack H. Obama tells us that foreign immigrants and refugees differ from Americans only inasmuch as they were born elsewhere, they are telling us that America is, ultimately, borderless, for it is an Idea or Creed that, as such, can be embraced by anyone anywhere.  Borders are arbitrary lines on a map, symbolic and capricious walls, and the requirements for official or legal citizenship are so many bureaucratic hurdles.

America the Idea is, essentially, the ideal of what neoconservatives and those further to their left call “Liberal Democracy.”  It is the idea of a Universal Regime of Equality, a Democracy under which the “human rights” of all find protection.  The champions of AE maintain that the territorial expanse that the world recognizes as the United States of America is Liberal Democracy in the flesh.

To put it another way, just as Plato believed that the particular, temporal instances of imperfect justice, truth, beauty, and goodness that we find in our world are but shadows or reflections of eternal, universal archetypes—Justice, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness—so too do the proponents of AE regard the geographical and historical entity of America as but a shadowy imitation of the real America, the Idea of a Universal Nation.

Implications & Criticisms of AE

Ahistorical Fiction

First, AE is as ahistorical a fiction as any of which Western political philosophy is littered. This being said, we must resist the temptation to place it alongside such other political-moral fictions as the State of Nature, the Classless Society, the Original Position, and Plato’s perfect Republic, for unlike the merchants of these imaginary devices, the peddlers of AE indicate not the slightest awareness that their doctrine of choice is an ideal, a thought experiment, a theoretical construct.

AE’s handlers are true believers—or at least they sound as if they are.

Rationalization for the Universal Empire

Second, AE is ahistorical, but it is a fiction the political and ideological benefits of which seem to be bottomless.

To put it bluntly, if one is in search of an intellectual rationalization for the Universal Empire, one needn’t look any further than AE.

Being an abstraction, America as Idea is utterly devoid of every vestige of historical contingency.  Emptied of all of those racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural particularities, the individual and collective experiences of the generations of human beings who made America what it is, AE is bloodless, lifeless, an eternal, timeless category that is designed to accommodate a virtually infinite number of pieces of machinery (human beings)—as long, of course, as those pieces are either indistinguishable from one another or at least treated as if they are such.

Thus, we find American Exceptionalists enthusiastically supporting relentless and potentially limitless immigration from practically anywhere and everywhere in the world, but mostly from countries and cultures whose mores, histories, and traditions are often not only distinct from, but antagonistic toward, those of Americans.

Yet at one and the same moment, American Exceptionalists swear to us that America, being the Liberal Democracy par excellence, must make war, or threats of war, so as to make the rest of the planet safe for Liberal Democracy, for Equality, for Human Rights.

So, since Americans are constantly in danger of being destroyed by non-Americans who despise “our values” (Liberal Democracy), we must make sure that the threat of American force is omnipresent.  However, in the meantime, we need to continue to allow into the United States millions of non-Americans, often from these very same lands that American Exceptionalists assure us pose an existential threat to it.

AE squares this circle.

Learned scholars, like my friend and esteemed scholar, Paul Gottfried, have long argued that contemporary America (along with other Western societies) are presided over by regimes that are best characterized as “administrative/managerial” States.  This characterization is true as far as it goes.  However, in light of the centrality with which AE figures in our political universe, it is most apt, I believe, to see the first role of the American government as that of Educator.

More specifically, it has assumed the persona of a Trainer.

As the philosopher Michael Oakeshott was quick to note, between a genuine education and a training there is all of the difference.  An educator seeks to teach his students how to think—regardless of what it is they choose for themselves to think about.  A trainer, a seminar instructor, in dramatic contrast, is essentially concerned with teaching his students what to think.  And because he wants to make it stick, because training requires far less time than an education, the content of the training must consist of propositions, statements that are explicit and that, therefore, can be seared into memory.

The doctrine of AE, the doctrine that America is an Idea, a Proposition of Equality or Human Rights that anyone can affirm, delivers in spades:

Those foreigners who want to destroy us, who “hate us for our freedoms,” differ from those foreigners who continue to pour into our country insofar as the latter have endorsed AE while the former have repudiated it.  Immigrants, even illegal immigrants, are enlightened and, thus, good Americans.  Those non-Americans who detest us haven’t yet been instructed in the Truth.  Like Socrates, the supporters of AE think that evil (or evil as they understand it) must be a function of ignorance.

According to the logic of AE, America is the Great Teacher.   Actually, given that it is only content that can be learned by rote that she is interested in imparting to her students, America here is the Great Correspondence School: After she has scrubbed the minds of her subjects clean, making of them blank slates, America seeks to drill a small handful of propositions into the minds of the Uninitiated.

Against Patriotism

Third, the champions of AE have been remarkably successful in convincing Americans, particularly self-described “conservatives,” that the affirmation of AE is nothing more or less than the expression of patriotism.  Yet not only is a commitment to the ideology of AE and a commitment to America two different sorts of commitments; they are mutually incompatible.

Alasdair MacIntyre, a Catholic philosopher of the Aristotelian-Thomist persuasion and a proponent of patriotism makes the point.  He observes that insofar as the patriot has “a peculiar regard…for the particular characteristics and merits and achievements of” his nation because they are his nation, “the particularity” of the patriot’s relationship to his country is “essential and ineliminable.”

The patriot’s morality is “a morality of particularist ties and solidarities,” of “a class of loyalty-exhibiting virtues” like “marital fidelity, the love of one’s own family and kin, friendship, and loyalty to such institutions as schools and cricket or baseball clubs.” The morality of patriotism demands of the patriot “a peculiar devotion” to his country.  It demands that he “regard such contingent social facts as where I was born and what government ruled over that place at that time, who my parents were, who my great-great-grandparents were, and so on, as deciding for me the question of what virtuous action is [.]”

AE, in glaring contradistinction, is a species of what MacIntyre calls “liberal morality,” an outlook that demands of moral agents that they abstract “from all social particularity and partiality” in rendering “impersonal” judgments.  Yet “liberal morality” is not only “systematically incompatible” with viewing patriotism as a virtue, it actually “requires that patriotism—at least in any substantial version—be treated as a vice.”

AE is a species of “liberal morality:” America the Idea has no history, no particular culture, religion, ethnicity, or nationality in which to ground it.  AE, comprised as it is of abstract propositions, is a universal creed.  Affirmation of its principles requires an attitude of, not partiality, but impartiality.

As eminent neoconservative Allan Bloom expressly acknowledged, given the neocon’s vision of America as Idea, “patriotism” must be reconfigured accordingly.  Whereas traditional societies instilled in its members “an instinctive, unqualified, even fanatic patriotism,” education in the United States has been geared toward inspiring in its citizens a “reflected, rational, calm, even self-interested loyalty [.]” Yet this loyalty is not to the country as such, but to its “form of government and its rational principles [.]”

 

From this moral perspective, “Class, race, religion, national origin or culture all disappear or become dim when bathed in the light of natural rights, which give men common interests and make them truly brothers.”

 

Notice, from this vantage point, it is abstract principles and “the form” of government that exists in America that become proper objects of the patriot’s devotion.  This form of government is the “Enlightenment” ideal of…“liberal democracy.”  “There is practically no contemporary regime that is not somehow a result of Enlightenment, and the best of modern regimes—liberal democracy—is entirely its product.”

 

Liberal democracy is “the regime of equality and liberty, of the rights of man,” and “the regime of reason,” and America is its epitome in that it is the first country in all of human history to have been founded upon “rational principles.

 

Irving Kristol, “the godfather” of neoconservatism, identifies “the equality of natural rights” enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as “the principles of” America’s “establishment,” the principles of “the universal creed” upon which the nation is “based.” The United States, then, is “a creedal nation” with a “‘civilizing mission’” to promote “American values” throughout the world, to see to it “that other governments respect our conception of individual rights as the foundation of a just regime and a good society.”

Kristol is unambiguous in his profession of the American faith: the United States, given its status as a “great power” and its “ideological” nature, does indeed have a responsibility “in those places and at those times where conditions permit” it “to flourish” to “‘make the world safe for democracy.”

However, from the standpoint of “liberal morality,” patriotism has been decried as a vice.

Take, for example, David McCabe, a contemporary philosopher and champion of “liberal morality.”  McCabe unabashedly declares that “liberal morality” is “fundamentally at odds” with patriotism, for the latter “may help tempt people away from the appropriate claims of equal moral treatment and towards something resembling group egoism.”

Paul Gomberg is another philosopher and proponent of “liberal morality.”  He is even more to the point in remarking that “on the most plausible assumptions about our world, patriotism is no better than racism.”  After all, Gomberg explains, “moral universalism implies that actions are to be governed by principles that give equal consideration to all people who might be affected by an action.” But patriotism is “a preference for one’s fellow nationals or for one’s own traditions and institutions over those of others,” and this in turn sounds dangerously like “ethnic and national chauvinism.”

The American patriot, whatever else he may be, most definitely cannot be an American Exceptionalist.

Against Christianity

Finally, as we have seen, AE is every bit as much an expression of dogma as is the Nicene Creed.  This consideration alone should suffice to deter the traditionally religious from embracing it. Traditional Christians especially should scorn it.

AE is, in a very real sense, blasphemous.  It is unthinkable that the doctrine of AE could have emerged in any cultural context other than that in which it in fact did emerge, the context of a civilization that was once known as Christendom and that, even if largely unbeknownst to itself, continues to depend upon its Christian inheritance for much of its self-understanding.

AE presupposes the framework of the Incarnation.  This framework has its roots in Judaism, but it assumed center stage with the advent of Christianity.  The Jews maintained that God became embodied or “incarnate” in the Temple.

Christians, though, believe that God did indeed become incarnate in the Temple, yet they think that this Temple, a Temple not made by human hands, is the Person of Christ.

God became a human person in Jesus of Nazareth.  This is the uniquely Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.

American Exceptionalists preserve this Christian doctrine—but without the Christos.  They divest the Incarnation of the God-Man while substituting for the latter the country of America, which is now the incarnation of the ideal of Liberal Democracy.

Or, to put it another way, America-as-Idea (Liberal Democracy) assumes flesh or becomes embodied, or most fully embodied, in the admittedly imperfect and finite concrete, historical country that the world knows as America.

Being pseudo-Christianity, this drivel must be rejected by all Christians—and, hopefully, by everyone else as well.

Conclusion

As I showed here, it is exactly because it is an ahistorical fantasy that the doctrine of American Exceptionalism serves as the perfect justification for the Universal Empire that its peddlers want for the United States to be.  In addition, its packaging easily lulls the unsuspecting into thinking that it is compatible with America’s traditional Christian faith and demanded by love for America.

In reality, though, AE is at odds with true patriotism and a perversion of Christian orthodoxy.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a football fan. This explains why it is only now, over a year after Colin Kaepernick took his infamous knee during the national anthem, that I am bothering to address this topic.

For purposes of clarity and simplicity, I will refer to the act of kneeling during the national anthem as “Kaepernickism” and those players who engage in this act as “Kaepernickists.”

Some points:

(1) Whatever the subjective intentions of individual Kaepernickists, Kaepernickism, like every act, has its own intention, its own internal logic. In this case, whether they intend this or not, Kaepernickists do in fact assume an adversarial stance against that country whose anthem it is that they refuse to honor.

The anthem, like the flag, represents to most Americans America itself.

In short, this action strikes tens and tens of millions of Americans (over 70%, according to polls) as “unpatriotic,” anti-American.

And this is an eminently legitimate reading of the situation—if, as most Americans believe, the anthem and flag represent, not just the American government, but, much more importantly, that historically extended project spanning centuries and generations that Americans recognize as their country.

(2) Of course, Kaepernickists deny that they are anti-American. They insist that the object of their protest is much more specific than America itself.  That object is “police brutality” toward American blacks.

That police are roaming the countryside looking for black males to gun down is a fiction of the first order.  Nor is there a shred of evidence to substantiate, but much to negate, even the thesis that blacks are shot by police more frequently than are their white counterparts.  However, even if this thesis was true, a symbolic repudiation of the country, besides being wildly offensive to most Americans who see it as anti-American, amounts as well to the ultimate non sequitur.

If it is injustice on the part of some police departments against blacks to which Kaepernickists wish to draw the nation’s attention, would it not make infinitely better sense than defying a national symbol like the flag to instead focus their indignation upon those cities and/or states in which these injustices, particularly those high-profile injustices, are said to have happened?

That their refusal to stand for the anthem is logically irrelevant to their indignation against “police brutality” can be gotten readily enough by way of any number of examples:

College tuition is a big problem because it rises at a faster rate than that of inflation.  Therefore, students and former students everywhere who are struggling to repay loans should refuse to stand for the national anthem.

Both absolutely and relative to their numbers in the population, blacks prey on members of other races far more frequently than the reverse.  Thus, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, in order to bring attention to this phenomenon, should refuse to stand for the anthem.

Women in America tend to live longer than men.  Therefore, men should refuse to stand for the anthem. 

Drug abuse has resulted in the destruction of lives in communities all throughout the country. Hence, those of us who are upset by this should refuse to stand for the anthem.

We could continue endlessly.  The point should be clear: If it is really just police brutality toward blacks that concerns Kaepernickists, then, since police are always the police of some local principality or state, it is, literally, illogical to demonstrate against a national symbol.

(3) This last criticism may miss the mark if, and only if, it isn’t police that Kaepernickists wish to protest but, as many of us have long suspected, America itself.

In (1), it was assumed that Kaepernickists are truthful or sincere when they insist that it is not America, but police brutality, that they protest when “taking a knee.”  However, the logic of the act inescapably betrays a sentiment that can only be read by millions as anti-American.

Here, in contrast, the argument is that Kaepernickists are insincere.  Their intention is actually to indict America for what they take to be intolerable injustice.

More specifically, it is white America on which they set their sights.

In other words, the theatrics in which mostly black professional football players are now engaging are designed to further the all too familiar narrative, especially in vogue at this moment as statues and monuments to historical white figures have come under fire in places throughout the US, that American blacks remain victims of the same white oppression to which they’ve been subjected for centuries.

Kaepernickists who kneel during the national anthem want to signal that, their standing as multi-millionaires aside, they too are down with the struggle against—what else?—“racism.”

Police brutality against blacks, whether the officers in question are black, white, or other, is treated by all concerned with “social justice” as but one more manifestation of “white racism.”

Summary of (1)-(3):

So, Kaepernickism is anti-American—whether individual Keapernickists intend this or not. If they do not intend to be anti-American, then they are illogical, for it makes no sense to defy a national symbol when it is a particular problem with which you are (allegedly) concerned.  On the other hand, if Kaepernickists are not acting illogically, then they know exactly what they are doing and intend to indict, not any specific police departments, but America itself.

Two final remarks are in order here.

First, Kaepernickists are preeminent virtue-signalers.  They have sacrificed nothing in taking a knee during the national anthem. If, though, they were truly serious about taking a stand against the oppression of blacks, then these mostly black millionaires should abandon the game of football, a sport that was invented by whites and, for no small part of its history, for whites.  By the lights of our Social Justice crusaders, this makes football…“racist!”

Second, until and unless those millions of Americans—including “conservative” commentators—who purport to be offended by Kaepernickism actually boycott the NFL, I’m afraid that they will be suspected of virtue-signaling as well.

To these I say: If you are genuinely offended by the anti-Americanism of Kaepernickism, then bring its proponents to their knees once and for all by freezing their check and economically crippling their employer.

 

 

 

 

 

While it seems that President Trump and the 86% or so of Americans who agree with him scored a decisive victory in the “culture wars” over the NFL and its Kaepernickists, no one, of whom I’m aware, has yet gotten to the root of the phenomenon of Kaepernickism.

Yet Colin Kaepernick himself revealed it to us over a year ago.

We need to be honest about what’s going here with these “protests” on the field by acknowledging the truth.  The truth is that they are most decidedly not protests against President Trump. Nor are they protests designed to signify “Unity,” “Equality,” or any other abstract but lofty ideal that Kaepernickists now invoke to control the damage from which the NFL is suffering.

The now jobless professional football player who kicked off Kaepernickism expressly stated his reason for not honoring the flag.  Though he always refused to stand, it should be recalled that, originally, “Kap” didn’t “take a knee” but, rather, sat while the anthem played.  In any event, the intention was the same.

Fortunately, Kaepernick shared his intention back in August of last year, long before he or anyone else expected any kind of pushback, to say nothing of the pushback with which the whole league was met recently.  Thus, before his colleagues and industry leaders felt the need to make attempts to restore their image, Kaepernick shared his real reason for turning his proverbial back on the flag.  He didn’t beat around the bush about it.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

And there we have it.

Kaepernick was clear.  To his credit, and unlike his many followers and apologists who insist that Kaepernickism never had anything to do with disrespecting the flag or the country, Kaepernick himself put the matter to rest. He knows, and admits to knowing, what his backers lack either the ability to recognize or the honesty and courage to concede:

(a)In refusing to stand during the national anthem (whether one sits or kneels is irrelevant), Kaepernick (and his imitators) intend to signal a lack of pride;

(b)It is not some objectionable lyrics or history of the national anthem that Kaepernick (and, by extension, Kaepernickists) refuse to affirm, but the American flag;

(c)The flag, Kaepernick clearly sees, represents the country;

(d) Thus, in refusing to stand during the anthem, Kaepernick refuses to express pride in the United States of America;

(e)America should invoke, not pride, but shame and loathing, for America is a country that “oppresses black people and people of color.”

In this same interview, Kaepernick elaborates on his last comment: “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Notice, the “oppression” of nonwhites to which Kaepernick wishes to draw attention is, as he would have us believe, murderous.  Blacks (and other nonwhites?) are routinely being murdered in cold-blood by police officers who are made to face no consequences for their ruthlessness.

Actually, while it is individual police officers who have pulled the triggers, ultimately, it is the country, as Kaepernick is quick to note, that is the real culprit. 

It is America that disposes of black bodies, leaving them “in the streets” like so much garbage while allowing the triggermen to walk.

Now, it can’t be that Kaepernick is accusing black and other nonwhite Americans of “oppressing” blacks and nonwhites (that black police officers are actually more likely than their white counterparts to shoot black suspects is not to the point here).  “The country,” as Kaepernick understands it, is white America.

To repeat, Kaepernickists refuse to honor or respect the flag because it represents, to them, a country that has always been and remains predominantly white, a country the vast majority of whose citizens have treated and continue to treat blacks and nonwhites like trash, animals to be shot down and left for dead in the streets.

In short, Kaepernickism most definitely is anti-American—or, more precisely, anti-AmeriKKKan. Moreover, it is also anti-white.

It is anti-American because, in refusing to show “pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” a country that leaves “(black) bodies in the street,” gives the killers “paid leave,” and allows them to get “away with murder,” Kaerpernickists indict a whole country.

They also indict all white people.

Remember this the next time you see players refuse to stand to “show pride in a flag” for America.

In the present controversy over the NFL, there are basically two sides.

On the one side are the Kaepernickists, those professional players and their apologists who insist that in refusing to stand for the national anthem and acknowledge the American flag, they do not intend any anti-Americanism but, rather, wish only to draw the nation’s attention to “police brutality” toward blacks.

On the other side are millions of Americans—about two-thirds of the country—who agree with President Trump that Kaepernickism is indeed anti-American.

If genuine thinking was as valued as moral showboating, we could use this occasion to explore a much underexplored concept: patriotism.  At bottom, whether the Kaepernickists or their detractors are correct turns upon the meaning of patriotism.

I’ll put my cards on the table at the outset: Both Republican conservatives and leftist Democrats, inasmuch as they have made America into an Idea, an abstract and universal Principle or Proposition that anyone at any time and in any place can affirm, have not only mired the concept of patriotism in a swamp of confusion.  In transforming patriotism into devotion to a Principle, these proponents of America-as-Idea have implied that it is not a virtue, but a vice.

Edmund Burke, traditional conservatism’s “patron saint,” famously referenced our “little platoons,” those local, particular associations that comprise the stuff of which the individual’s identity is made.  Our families, neighborhoods, churches, clubs, schools—comprehensively, our local communities—serve as a buffer between the individual and the government, and the means by which we come to love our country. The little platoons elicit affections and command allegiance while investing our lives with meaning and direction.

Yet my friends, family, parish, neighborhood, town, and country are mine; as such, they are concrete and particular—not abstract and universal.  As such, I am more partial to them than I am to your friends, family, and so forth.

Patriotism is partiality to one’s own country over that of others.  If, as we commonly hear, patriotism—or at least American patriotism—is commitment to or love for a universal principle, then anyone anywhere becomes an American patriot as soon as they affirm that principle.  If the object of the “patriot’s” devotion is a bloodless, lifeless, timeless abstraction, then it isn’t partiality, but impartiality, that is the proper attitude.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre puts the point well when he notes that patriotism “is defined in terms of a kind of loyalty to a particular nation which only those possessing that particular nationality can exhibit.”

While it’s true that the patriot’s loyalty is not “mindless,” that it involves “a peculiar regard…for the particular characteristics and merits and achievements of” his nation, these are valued precisely as merits and achievements of his nation.

In other words, “the particularity” of the patriot’s relationship to his country is “essential and ineliminable.”

MacIntyre continues in explaining that the patriot’s morality is “a morality of particularist ties and solidarities,” of “a class of loyalty-exhibiting virtues” like “marital fidelity, the love of one’s own family and kin, friendship, and loyalty to such institutions as schools and cricket or baseball clubs.”  The morality of patriotism demands of the patriot “a peculiar devotion” to his country.  It demands that he “regard such contingent social facts as where I was born and what government ruled over that place at that time, who my parents were, who my great-great-grandparents were, and so on, as deciding for me the question of what virtuous action is [.]”

Notice, this vision of patriotism is, as MacIntrye says, “systematically incompatible” with any view that conceives patriotism in terms of commitment to a universal principle.  Those who subscribe to the latter view believe that to make moral judgments is “to judge as any rational person would judge, independently of his or her interests, affections, and social position.”  Persons—in this case, American patriots—must abstract “from all social particularity and partiality.”

MacIntrye rightfully concludes that whether those who hold it realize this or not, their perspective, the perspective of those who see America as an Idea, Principle, or Proposition, “requires that patriotism—at least in any substantial version—be treated as a vice.”

In point of fact, the American patriot is not in love with “natural rights” or “human rights.”  He is not devoted to an Ideal of Freedom or of Liberty or any other ideal.

The American patriot is devoted to his country.

In the real world, as opposed to the airy ideal world of the ideologue’s imaginings, there is no Freedom and Liberty.  In any event, for the American patriot, his love is oriented toward only the many historically and culturally-specific freedoms and liberties that he enjoys as his inheritance as the citizen of America, an inheritance that was centuries in the making and that was bequeathed to him by generations and generations of his compatriots.  As Burke remarked, the patriot sees his country as a covenant, a compact between the past, the present, and the future; the dead, the living, and those not yet born.

Patriotism, then, is a sentiment, an affection not unlike that which is shared by spouses and that which parents have for their children.  This being so, the patriot does not live by Reason alone. Between the virtue of patriotism and the moral imagination there is a particularly powerful, indeed, an inseparable, bond: Symbols, like the country’s flag and its national anthem, are sacramental.

So, in returning to the NFL controversy, we’re now able to reach a decisive verdict:

Their insistence to the contrary aside, Kaepernickists most definitely have been engaging in anti-Americanism.

The flag for which they refuse to stand represents to the American patriot, not just his government and certainly not some ideal or policy; the flag represents his country, that spiritual unity that reaches from centuries past to the present and, he hopes, well into the future.

The flag stands for, not just his country, but that of his ancestors and that of his posterity.

It stands for the achievements, sacrifices, hardships, tragedies, and joys, the blood, sweat, tears, and laughter of countless numbers of human beings who are united only insofar as they have been members of one and the same country whose flag it is.

Kaepernickists, thus, repudiate not some specific aspect or other of America when they refuse to honor its flag.  They repudiate America itself.

Kaepernickists, the players and all of their defenders, partake of anti-Americanism.

American patriots must now resolutely repudiate them.