Patriotism means constructive criticism

Tom Barrett

The United States is undoubtedly the greatest nation in the world with its tremendous wealth, prosperity and the liberties and rights it affords its people. As great as America may be, it is certainly not the picture-perfect image of democracy, as it is sometimes described. Still, American citizens love their country and rightly so. But does loving one’s country require a person to ignore its flaws and imperfections, stubbornly pledging his or her loyalty to a system he or she knows could be better? When the president says a decision is right, then it must be right – is that type of thinking actually patriotic? Think about it. Without questioning, the problems of the country would never be addressed: segregation would still divide cities around the country, and women would remain out of the workplace. Sometimes, a critical voice proves the most loyal of all.

Many times, U.S. citizens criticize the U.S. government only to receive accusations that they are “bashing the country.” Someone disapproves of something about the war in the Middle East or makes a comment about the problems of capitalism, and instantly become a terrorist sympathizer or some kind of godless communist. Why is questioning the decisions of public officials or the status quo so taboo in a nation that is built upon values like free speech?

First, there is a difference between being critical of the United States’ decisions and outrightly bashing the country. This country was designed so the people could have a voice in how their government functions and voice their opinions when it is not reaching its standards of performance. America has become the great nation it is today by allowing its citizens to do just that. Nothing is more American than being able to stand up and ask, “Are we really practicing justice and promoting equality here?”

The bottom line is that the United States is not perfect, nor will it ever be. As much as it has been a haven for freedom and democracy, it has equally been a cesspool for injustice and intolerance. That statement, however, should not detract from the tremendous potential this country holds. The United States has come a long way in expanding the rights and liberties it provides for its people – just think about the civil and women’s rights movements – but there is still much ground that needs to be covered.

These problems, however, will not take care of themselves. If people complacently drift with the current, the same problems will continue to pollute society. If anything is to be improved, people need to stand up and tell the officials, “We can do better than this!” Patriotism comes in many forms, and sometimes the best way to show true love for one’s country is to work toward manifesting its potential and helping to maintain its ideals. It’s like tough love on a national level.


Tom Barrett is a sophomore philosophy major from Colonia, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].