04/05/2008 07:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Patriotism in the Kingian Tradition

Frederick Douglass' definition of patriotism goes like this: "A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins." When you look at what Jeremiah Wright had to say and look at it in context, Rev. Wright is standing in a Kingian tradition.

Everyone wants to cast Martin King as a dreamer. But one year to the day before his assassination, Dr. King gave a speech called "Why I'm Opposed to Vietnam," and in that speech he talked about God's judgment on America. He talked about America being arrogant. And he said these words at the time, "The U.S. is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

The minute he said that, he fell off the list of the most admired Americans--- in 1967 they disinvited him to the White House----here's a guy who in '64 and '65 helped Lyndon Johnson sign the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts---but in '67, just a couple of years later, they disinvited him to the White House. In '68, they shoot him dead.

Part of what being a patriot means is to stand as a truth-teller and say what's got to be said.

[Tavis Smiley on "Real Time with Bill Maher" March 28, 2008]