I voted on Tuesday, and felt good. It’s a satisfying thing to do, isn’t it? There’s a small emotional high afterwards; a hopefulness, especially with primaries. A pleasant feeling about democratic processes.
My lesson plans for the two courses I’m teaching intersected with that pleasant feeling in interesting ways. I hadn’t figured the primaries into my syllabi, but in a nice bit of synchronicity, one course was responding to Ernest Renan’s “What Is a Nation?”, and the other course was responding to our Declaration of Independence and the documents Jefferson drew from in composing it.
But nobody in either course raised the question — despite that Super Bowl defeat — of what “patriot” might mean, and I’m curious about that silence. It’s a gendered term, of course, and so carries certain difficulties, but its semi-synonyms — “nationalist,” perhaps, for one — are even more troublesome to some.
Certainly, the students I teach can’t not be patriots, in the service they’ve volunteered to their country: one reason it doesn’t come up in discussion is that it’s beyond argument for them.
But I bet, readers, that some of you might not want to be labeled as patriots. So I’m curious: how has our sense of what it means to be a nation, or to be a patriot, or to declare allegiance to Renan’s patrie — how has that changed from 1776 to 1882 to today? On November 4, will you think of yourself as a patriot — and if so, or if not — why?