Mature Patriotism in an Era of Political Polarization

by Dr. David Gruder

In Honor of US Independence Day…

Our politically polarized times in the United States call upon all Americans, and anyone living in other countries who is interested in the United States, to refresh their understanding of America’s Mission Statement: the U.S. Constitution’s preamble. This revolutionary document created an entirely new kind of government. One that is required to be a servant to its citizens instead of its citizens being servants to a ruler. A government whose mandate is to serve its citizens by preserving individual freedom and promoting the common good.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were deeply divided over how to craft a government that could function in integrity with this mission statement. Their fiery arguments about this is the stuff of legend. But, unlike today, their fire didn’t scorch them into polarized paralysis. Rather, their passion about America’s Mission Statement motivated them to synergize their perspectives to birth one of the most amazing documents in the history of government. Their united dedication to America’s Mission Statement made it possible for their fiercely differing perspectives to forge a better form of government than any side would have created alone.

America’s birth is a portrait of mature patriotism. Today’s political climate is the opposite of this. Ideologically addicted conservatives and progressives scream about only half of the constitutional mandate while pretending their perspective reflects the entire mandate. Extremists in both groups viciously attack the other’s perspectives while insisting that their own perspective is the only true patriotism. This dangerously immature version of patriotism is a far cry from what the Constitution’s framers modeled or intended.

The best way we Americans can celebrate Independence Day is by re-affirming mature patriotism through re-committing ourselves to understanding and living in integrity with ALL of America’s Mission Statement. A powerful way to understand America’s Mission Statement is through appreciating three paradoxes of democracy-centered republics, and the ways conservatives and progressives voice complementary halves of those paradoxes:

 Healthy ConservativesHealthy Progressives
Individual FreesponsibilityIndividual Freedom/Self-SufficiencyCommon Good
Societal WellbeingStability, "domestic tranquility"Change, "a more perfect union"
International RelationsSovereignty/ExpansionRespectful Coexistence & Nurturance

When combined, the core qualities that conservatives and progressives advocate create a whole and healthy country. The U.S. Constitution calls for a government and citizenry who function at the intersection of these seemingly contradictory qualities, not who make one side of the counterbalance more important than the other side. Too many of us have stopped appreciating the paradoxes that the framers of our constitution had the wisdom and courage to address. Mature patriotism requires continual attention to these paradoxes rather than siding with one half of a paradox over the other. When citizens, advocacy groups, the media, educators, or politicians forget this, mature patriotism becomes endangered and our society becomes imperiled.

We live in times of soaring integrity deficits and dysfunctionally polarized politics in which conservatives and progressives treat their half of the picture as though it is the whole picture. As a result, each group far too often exhibits these dysfunctional qualities of immature patriotism:

Dysfunctional ConservativesDysfunctional Progressives
Greed masquerading as free market advocacy and individual rights (narcissism and entitlement in which freedom more important than social responsibility)Entitlement masquerading as social fairness advocacy and human rights (narcissism in which you’re responsible for me and social responsibility is more important than individual freedom)
Rigidity: Dealing with fear by clinging to the status quo or tradition simply because that’s how it’s been done until now, and downplaying the damage this rigidity creates (social change illiteracy)Impulsiveness: Dealing with fear by trying to implement change before sufficiently weighing benefits, risks and costs, and downplaying the damage this impulsiveness does (social change illiteracy)
Coercion: Arrogantly imposing our will on others while insisting that we’re doing this for their own good (masculine cowardice; problem-solving illiteracy)Compromise: Tolerating unacceptable behavior in the name of fairness or coexistence (feminine cowardice; problem-solving illiteracy)
Rewriting the Constitution by insisting that individual freedom is more important than the common good (constitutional illiteracy)Rewriting the Constitution by insisting that the common good is more important than individual freedom (constitutional illiteracy)

These are the dangers of perverting complementary halves of a whole picture. Ideological vitriol is the opposite of mature patriotism. It threatens the integrity of the Constitution and guarantees the deterioration of our country.

Thomas Jefferson strongly advocated governing at the intersection of the conservative and progressive perspective when he wrote, "I am certainly not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."

May this Independence Day celebrate our great country’s commitment to return to the mature version of patriotism that our Constitution’s framers were wise enough to maintain despite their huge differences. This return begins with appreciating the ways in which the healthy versions of the conservative and progressive viewpoints are necessary halves of a whole picture. This appreciation will mark the beginning of a new age in politics: Transpartisanism — reconciling seeming opposites to co-create better solutions than either side alone — or bipartisan compromise — can create. Transpartisanism is mature patriotism in an era of extreme polarization.

My Integrity Stimulus Plan is a master plan to help citizens and the politicians join together to return our country to the path of greatness that our founders envisioned. The New IQ is a master plan showing individual citizens and leaders how to live at the intersection of integrity, sustainable happiness, economic success and social responsibility.

Happy July 4!

MEDIA: Click here for information about interviewing Dr. Gruder on this topic!

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