The Appearance of Patriotism

by | Sep 10, 2021

A nation is as great as it is free.

Those who have no memory of 9/11 should know that when terror struck on that sunlit September morning in 2001 what struck back.  Those who lived through the event will well recall, The appearance of patriotism:

Before a summer’s last sun could set, the fall of two tall towers cast a pale shadow of peril over every American home. Then came the iconic photo. Upon the rubble of two fallen towers, three fearless firefighters raised a flag.  They could not know they had lit a torch to light the skies and lift the spirit of every county in the country.

By week’s end, a wave of patriotism not seen since the end of the Second World War was everywhere on display.   It raced westward like a wind-propelled fire on a parched forest floor.  No commentator could miss or mistake it, as personally unacquainted with the phenomenon as he or she may have previously been.   Many told us how hard it was to find words adequate enough to describe the enormity of our sorrow.   Few in the media even looked for words to explain the pain-mitigating pride that bravely battled the awful hurt in our hearts.

So, why patriotism?  Deep grief over the terrific loss of life, a blinding rage over the terrorists’ success, even a consuming thirst for vengeance would need no further explanation.  But there was something else at work.  Americans who so proudly displayed the American flag did so to express their abiding devotion to “the republic for which it stands,” aka “this Sweet Land of the Free.”  We love this land so much because, more than any other, it allows its citizens to live and be left alone.  Do not think Americans have lost their love for Liberty;  there is little we prize and cherish more.  Yes, in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we tend to take the things we treasure for granted.  And as always, the full depth of the love is only felt upon their loss.

In a flash, terror fatally struck the pleasant routine of daily life.  Three thousand died just for going to their jobs that morning.  And, it wasn’t just about the dead and grieving.  Terror struck us all.  For as it was said so often in the ensuing days, “if we do not feel safe we cannot feel free.” Americans overwhelmingly supported the war on terror and joined the armed forces in droves to ensure the safety of their parents, siblings, wives and children.  We all wanted the precious blessings of freedom which we so long took for granted restored.


In time, Joe Biden’s colossal blunders in Afghanistan and on the southern border may well precipitate renewed terror attacks on the homeland.  And a future terror strike might well spark a patriotic outpouring loud enough and clear enough to silence the noxious “woke” voices that endlessly disparage America’s history and culture.  The anti-American Left will find no audience for their malign drivel.  Joe Biden may have just put the final nail in the progressive’s coffin.  Of course, it was hardly his intention.

What are the chances that this is what the future holds?

To answer that question, we must consider just who the American people are  – dedicated intellectuals and activists aside and, despite the media propaganda, classroom indoctrination, and censorship born of the fear and intimidation that political correctness is designed to invoke.

Here’s the basic premise.  A nation is as great as it is free. Economic prosperity, the product, and consequence of political freedom is both the material expression of a nation’s greatness and its greatest practical reward.

America, the freest nation ever to exist, became the greatest -and the most prosperous. Not that much has changed.  Today, her citizens meet the challenge of freedom head-on. Via individual initiative and plenty of hard work, most yet pursue their own personal ambitions and in the process maintain a standard of living, a measure of prosperity unmatched by any polity in any place, at any other time in history. Americans dare to dream, and many live to see their wildest dreams come true. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is not an empty utopian fantasy, but a brute fact of reality.

Today, as in the past, American citizens take their lives very seriously. Being concerned with the values which make life worth living, they very properly concern themselves with their careers, their businesses, their families, their friends, and with acquiring the goods and services which bring comfort and convenience to their lives.

But, for any person, achieving personal fulfill­ment is a full-time endeavor. Being preoccupied with the circumstances of his own life, believing that what does not affect him should not concern him, the average American confines his attention to those matters which most directly bear on his personal well­being and happiness. The subject he has come to care least about, the subject he considers most distant from his own, per­sonal life is politics. He will plan meticulously for his own future, but not for the future of the country in which his life is to be lived. Failing to consider the enormous extent to which his own fortunes are tied to the fortunes (or misfortunes) of his country, the average American lives with an assumption he has no right and little reason to make.

He assumes that there will always be a healthy, prosperous economy which will provide him the oppor­tunity for achievement, and reward him for his abilities and virtues. This assumption lay dormant and unchallen­ged for generations as Americans rose to ever-higher pinnacles of prosperity. The fantastic luxury items of one generation became common necessities in the next. Young men who began their careers as street cor­ner merchants rose to become corporate presidents.  Opportunity yet abounds on the country’s streets and boulevards.

But much of the serenity has dissipated in the wake of the disastrous policy course the country has been pursuing over the past seven-plus months (or 60 years).  Culminating with the disastrous Afghanistan blunder, the pending threat of runaway public spending, higher taxes, ever-deeper fiscal debt, rising prices at the pump and crime in the streets, the endless stream of mask-less, untested immigrants coming across the border and being dispersed across the fruited plain, and now, high-handed freedom-ending mandates imposed without any legislative consideration

More than ever, Americans need to know that we elect the men, who write the laws, that create the conditions in which we all prosper or perish.  The majority can no longer afford to remain silent.  The pain to come, born of foreign threats and domestic follies may well be the long-overdue wake-up call.  So it is much more than terrorism that could entice Americans not just to wave their flags, but to finally ask:  what must government do for us, and what must we be allowed and expected to do for ourselves – and one another?   Precisely how limited was limited government meant to be?

Jerome Huyler has a PhD. in political science and is a retired assistant professor who taught courses in intellectual history, moral and political philosophy, and American political thought at Seton Hall Univesity. He is the author of Locke In America: The Moral Philosophy of the Founding Era, and has recently completed a sequel entitled, The Tragedy of Our History: How the Patriot's America Became the Progressive's America. Dr. Huyler's website can be accessed at

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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