What does it mean to be a patriot? Obviously loving your country is the baseline from which we must work, but what form ought that love need embody? Frequently this love is merely blind obedience. For instance, while disastrous foreign intervention is often portrayed as bumbling or ridden with mistakes, and the methods may be challenged, the actual right to intervene is never questioned. The patriotic state is morally infallible, even if its arbiters are only human in their expression of that impossibly righteous doctrine. Those who claim the highest degree of patriotism often have the strongest distaste for the elites of their country, despite them representing the very mechanisms for how that country operates. This contradiction illuminates that patriotism can represent a disturbing level of authoritarianism, as even if the masters of society are held in contempt, their deeds and motivations at their core are ultimately indisputable. Patriotism as a guise for authoritarianism is not built on a foundation of love but one of control, so clearly that option must be discarded.

If not obedience, why not disobedience? John Stuart Mill said, “Laws never would be improved, if there were not numerous persons whose moral sentiments are better than the existing laws.” Moral infallibility is certainly not the property of any state, which means that the people are the ones responsible to hold it to account. Participating in the system is quite often nothing more than a concession to the very nature of that system, which means that disobedience is possibly one of the few ways to hold those in power to account, as is our responsibility. Consider these quotations from anti-suffragettes. Emma Goldman, the radical feminist and anarchist, said:

The history of the political activities of man proves that they have given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner. As a matter of fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through suffrage. There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.

Helen Keller, yes, that Helen Keller, was a socialist dissident who also believed that enfranchisement was the wrong direction to take:

Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee . . . You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?

These women were not creating objections based on misogynistic ideas of a woman’s place in society, but were objecting based on the principle that the country belongs to its citizens rather than the ruling class. The idea of political disobedience is never disobedience for disobedience sake, but rather to improve the state of the world so that the lives of the people are improved along with it. It is an ideology of communal unity, where the bond of the people is driving forward the mechanisms of change. This is a patriotism of love. This is a patriotism that believes the state can be improved because the people within it deserve the best of all possible worlds. Dissent is not a rejection of the nation; it is its embrace, believing it can do better because it deserves to be the best. We are our nation. We deserve the best.

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