Politics & Policy

Who Wants to Raise an American?

We're way too timid about our patriotism.

When my co-author Chriss Winston and I started to write our new book How to Raise an American, we both felt there was a “Patriotism Gap” between adults and children. Our impression was that kids today were not as patriotic as kids were in previous generations.

A recent poll conducted by the Winston Group confirmed this (full disclosure: the president of the Winston Group is David Winston, husband of Chriss). The poll found that, while 97 percent of Americans say they are patriotic, 70 percent believe that children today are growing up less patriotic.

No surprises there. It only makes sense that the majority of Americans would be proud of our country’s history and grateful to benefit from it. But before the book was published, I hadn’t realized just how much louder are those who are unpatriotic or whose patriotism consists primarily in protesting. The patriotic “silent majority” — perhaps you’ve noticed — is quite silent these days.

Even while writing the book, we were a little surprised to find that patriotism is now being treated like the crazy aunt who’s kept in the attic. Patriotism has become something that nobody really wants to talk about, even among those whose job is to encourage citizenship. For example, a while back Chriss attended a meeting at the National Conference on Citizenship. It was held in the ballroom of the Ronald Reagan Building — a building that honors one of our most unabashedly patriotic presidents. But during the daylong discussion of citizenship, not one of the speakers or panel members ever uttered the word “patriotism.” When Chriss asked about this, she was told, “Patriotism isn’t a good word to use these days because it has been co-opted by the Right.”

Sad, isn’t it? It’s not safe to express a love for our country even at a conference on citizenship.

Of course, among most celebrities, patriotism is totally out of fashion. Joy Behar, that sage on The View, recently declared, “To be totally patriotic is almost not being patriotic in any way,” and got a round of applause for that dumbbell remark. And Rosie, on that same show, did her usual rant about how patriotism just means yelling and screaming in the street

In several radio discussions, I’ve heard the usual arguments about how patriotism equates to nationalism, how we all need to be world citizens these days. (tell that to Osama bin Laden), and how teaching kids to love our country is wrong since our country always has done, and still is doing, so many bad things.

On YouTube there is a nine-minute rant by a spacey Australian that goes on and on about our book and the evils of America. He says he heard about the book on a neo-pagan website. I doubt that the neo-pagans are very patriotic, wherever they are.

And on Amazon, our book — which is full of such simple family-friendly activities for parents and kids as doing craft projects or curling up to watch movies like Little House on the Prairie — is tagged as “fascist fantasy.”

I can handle the criticism — after all, arguing is the American way. But what surprises, and really disturbs, me is how energetic and righteous-sounding these anti-Americans are, and how subdued patriotic Americans are, as if they were embarrassed to say they are proud of our history and our institutions. It’s as if too many have been convinced by the megaphone of the media that this is indeed the worst of times in American history — a patently ridiculous view.

No doubt this skewed negativity can be partly explained by the hatred that many have for the president and his policies, and who then equate him with America. Spewing out conspiracy theories and paranoia, they try to tell us we are under the domination of a tyrannical dictator — another patently ridiculous view.

Chriss and I wrote our book because we were concerned that kids, who learn so little history today at school and who are so influenced by media, didn’t know why they should be proud to be Americans. But now I am just as concerned that far too many grown-ups are as confused or apathetic, while those who are negative about our country have become louder and louder and more influential.

At the beginning of the Second World War , during one of the darkest times, Winston Churchill came to North America to stiffen resolve , and declared, “We have not journeyed across the ocean, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.” Unfortunately today the problem isn’t that we are made of sugar candy but that we are told being sour is the right way to be.

– Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is co-author of How to Raise an American. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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