Quiet Patriots and a Boorish Buffoon
I’ve always thought there are no greater lovers of country- quiet patriots, invisible servants- than the men and women of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations/National Clandestine Service. To give your life to your country so fully as to surrender your judgment to a code of pure and silent duty to a cause greater than self, to live no other life- is a high order not all of us are worthy of bearing, or called to take.
Patriotism isn’t flags and eagles. It’s a way of life, replete with a demand for virtues we moderns are uncomfortable with thinking about in this age of rights and feelings- honor, duty, sacrifice, service, and yes, love- a love that transcends self-interest and conscience, what President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” We’ll never hear about the silent heroes of the CIA- they’ll never be grand marshals of parades, they’ll never stand before adoring crowds and wear gold medallions around their necks. They don’t do their work for glory- they do it out of love. They are superior, but they’d never say it, or, frankly, think it.
They are patriots. They are our best, and their patriotism ought to sober us into emulation.
So when Donald Trump goes and mocks the CIA, when Donald Trump accuses them of falsehoods and favoritism, when Donald Trump has the nerve to make a self-gratifying campaign speech in front of the wall of heroes at Langley- all patriotic Americans ought to be offended and offended deeply.
Above all the things that offend me and disgust me about our new President- and there are many- by far the most egregious is his obnoxious mockery of patriotism, turning a noble devotion and creed of liberty and service into a childish parody of real patriotism. When he delegitimizes true Americanism with his antics, wrapping himself in the flag, he does a disservice to those who died for this country and only got a nameless star on a wall.
I despise the godless sophisticates of the left who disparage patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels and the first cover of racists, because they don’t and never will understand why soldiers and spies do what they do. But they don’t have a pretension to be patriots. Far worse are those boorish buffoons who claim the mantle of patriotism for their own, dumb it into a high school fight song, and never reflect on the meanings of honor, duty, sacrifice, service, and love. President Trump numbers among these.