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No Political Ideology Has a Monopoly on Patriotism

03/05/2015 10:46 am ET | Updated May 05, 2015

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani created a firestorm by publicly stating: "I do not believe the President [Barack Obama] loves America." Giuliani also suggested that Obama developed negative feelings toward America from Frank Marshall Davis, a member or the Communist Party USA, who was introduced to Obama by his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, at the age of nine.

Lost in the controversy over Giuliani's comments is the misapprehension many people have about the meaning of the word "Patriotism." The term generally means love of one's nation and a feeling of unity with its people. By and large, Americans have come to believe, although erroneously, that Patriotism is tantamount to support for the Constitutional system of government and the policies instituted by the government. In truth, an American Patriot can love his/her country while opposing the polices of the government and the nation's Constitutional system.

Obama is not the only politician to be mendaciously criticized for a lack of patriotism. After the 9/11 hijackings, U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), MIT Linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky, and former Libertarian Presidential nominee Harry Browne faced these same charges because of their view that U.S. foreign policy effectuated the attacks. They were branded unpatriotic and anti-American. Yet they said nothing suggesting that they had disdain for the country, its people, or its land. They only excoriated the foreign policies of the U.S. government. It could easily be argued that their criticism was actually patriotic in that they were warning that the continued bi-partisan interventionist foreign policies of the American government could result in greater danger to the homeland and to the nation's economy.

Love for one's country has little connection to the form of government a county's citizenry live under. In 1787, 55 prominent Americans met at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia under the guise of amending the existing Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Articles were viewed by many Americans as allowing too much decentralization, granting the respective states too much power, rendering the federal government essentially impotent. During the Constitutional Convention, delegates debated the proper form of government. Today, some of these proposals would incorrectly be called anti-American. For example, Alexander Hamilton proposed delegating almost all power to the Federal government and almost none to the states.

Some delegates refused to sign the document or left the Convention early in protest. Caleb Strong left because the document did not allow the State Legislatures to choose the President. John Lansing left because he thought the Federal Government would have too much power. Luther Martin did not sign because he believed the document would be an affront to states' rights. These Americans were opposed to the new document because they believed it would cause deleterious effects to the nation. They were patriots who opposed the positions of the majority of the delegates. Today, anyone who is vehemently critical of the Constitution, or a substantive provision within it, might be roundly assailed as being "unpatriotic."

In suggesting that an avowed Communist influenced Obama, Giuliani suggests that there is an inherent contradiction between being a Communist and being an American patriot. However, even if Obama was a Communist, that would not in and of itself make him any less of a patriot than if he were a Capitalist. If any American genuinely believes that it would benefit the U.S. to live under a Communist system, or under any other ideology, and is willing to advocate for it, that person could be considered a patriot. Likewise, if a Communist truly believes America would be a better place under Communism, that would not make that person unpatriotic.

If there were to be a coup d'état in the U.S., and a new regime were to assume power, be it Communist, Fascist, Socialist, ect., Americans who supported the old Constitutional Republican system and opposed the new system would be no less patriotic. They might despise the new regime, but that does not mean they would no longer love their country. The fact that the new government might change the flag and actuate a new constitution would be irrelevant to whether or not an American citizen is patriotic.

Bill Clinton once said: "You can't say you love your country and hate your government." But in fact, love for one's country and love for one's government or constitutional system are mutually exclusive. An American patriot can be a Communist, Capitalist, Liberal, or Conservative. All can want the best for the country, but harbor divergent views of achieving that goal.

No political ideology has a monopoly on patriotism. During the dark days of 1968, with the nation deeply divided over U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, U.S. House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford [R-MI) told his constituents: "We will survive and become stronger - not only because of a patriotism that stands for love of country, but a patriotism that stands for love of people."