Saturday, July 4, 2020

The virtue of patriotism

Patriotism involves a special love for and reverence toward one’s own country.  These days it is often dismissed as sentimental, unsophisticated, or even bigoted.  In fact it is a moral virtue and its absence is a vice.  Aquinas explains the basic reason:

A man becomes a debtor to others in diverse ways in accord with the diverse types of their excellence and the diverse benefits that he receives from them.  In both these regards, God occupies the highest place, since He is the most excellent of all and the first principle of both our being and our governance.  But in second place, the principles of our being and governance are our parents and our country, by whom and in which we are born and governed.  And so, after God, a man is especially indebted to his parents and to his country.  Hence, just as [the virtue of] religion involves venerating God, so, at the second level, [the virtue of] piety involves venerating one’s parents and country.  Now the veneration of one’s parents includes venerating all of one’s blood relatives... On the other hand, the veneration of one’s country includes the veneration of one’s fellow citizens and of all the friends of one’s country.  (Summa Theologiae II-II.101.1, Freddoso translation)

Love and reverence for country is thus an extension of love and reverence for parents and family, and has a similar basis.  One’s country is like an extended family, and benefits one in ways analogous to the benefits provided by family.  Hence, just as one owes a special gratitude and respect to one’s own parents and family that is not owed to other families, so do does one owe a special gratitude and respect to one’s own country that is not owed to other countries.

But it’s not just what your country has done for you that matters, it’s what you can do for your country.  As Aquinas also argues, just as one is obliged to provide benefits to one’s own family in a way one is not obliged to provide them to other families, so too ought one to give benefits to one’s own country that one does not owe to other countries.  He writes:

Augustine says… “Since one cannot do good to all, we ought to consider those chiefly who by reason of place, time or any other circumstance, by a kind of chance are more closely united to us”…

Now the order of nature is such that every natural agent pours forth its activity first and most of all on the things which are nearest to it… But the bestowal of benefits is an act of charity towards others.  Therefore we ought to be most beneficent towards those who are most closely connected with us.

Now one man's connection with another may be measured in reference to the various matters in which men are engaged together; (thus the intercourse of kinsmen is in natural matters, that of fellow-citizens is in civic matters, that of the faithful is in spiritual matters, and so forth): and various benefits should be conferred in various ways according to these various connections, because we ought in preference to bestow on each one such benefits as pertain to the matter in which, speaking simply, he is most closely connected with us…

For it must be understood that, other things being equal, one ought to succor those rather who are most closely connected with us.  (Summa Theologiae II-II.31.3)

As Aquinas also says, by no means does this entail that one has no obligations to help those of other countries, any more than one’s special duty to one’s own parents and family entails that one need not ever help other families.  The point is just that a special concern for one’s own country and countrymen is not only not wrong, it is obligatory.  As one work of Catholic moral theology says:

Piety is owed to parents and country as the authors and sustainers of our being… On account of this nobility of the formal object, filial piety and patriotism are very like to religion and rank next after it in the catalogue of virtues

Country should be honored, not merely by the admiration one feels for its greatness in the past or present, but also and primarily by the tender feeling of veneration one has for the land that has given one birth, nurture, and education… External manifestations of piety towards country are the honors given its flag and symbols, marks of appreciation of its citizenship… and efforts to promote its true glory at home and abroad.  (McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, Volume II, pp. 412-13)

As with other virtues, the virtue of patriotism is a mean between extremes, and thus there are two corresponding vices, one of excess and one of deficiency.  Here is how a couple of standard works of moral theology in the Thomistic tradition describe the first vice:

Excess is shown in this virtue by those who cultivate excessive nationalism in word and deed with consequent injury to other nations. (Prümmer, Handbook of Moral Theology, p. 211)

Patriotism should not degenerate into patriolatry, in which country is enshrined as a god, all-perfect and all-powerful, nor into jingoism or chauvinism, with their boastfulness or contempt for other nations and their disregard for international justice or charity. (McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, Volume II, p. 414)

As with the virtue of patriotism itself, the nature and unreasonableness of this vice of excess are best understood on analogy with the case of parents and family.  Even most people with a deep sentimental attachment to their own parents and family would find it bizarre to suppose that this would entail deifying them, or justify hatred and contempt for other families.  But no less unreasonable would it be to take love of country to justify idolatry of country or hatred and contempt for other countries.  The monstrous example of Nazi Germany has hammered home to modern people the evil of this excess. 

Here is how the manuals just quoted describe the opposite extreme vice:

The virtue is violated by defect by those who boast that their attitude is cosmopolitan and adopt as their motto the old pagan saying: ubi bene, ibi patria (Prümmer, Handbook of Moral Theology, p. 211)

Disrespect for one’s country is felt when one is imbued with anti-nationalistic doctrines (e.g., the principles of Internationalism which hold that loyalty is due to a class, namely, the workers of the world or a capitalistic group, and that country should be sacrificed to selfish interests; the principle of Humanitarianism, which holds that patriotism is incompatible with love of the race; the principle of Egoism which holds that the individual has no obligations to society); it is practiced when one speaks contemptuously about country, disregards its good name or prestige, subordinates its rightful pre-eminence to a class, section, party, personal ambition, or greed, etc. (McHugh and Callan, Moral Theology, Volume II, p. 414)

Here too, the nature and unreasonableness of the vice are best understood on analogy with the case of parents and family.  Suppose someone had no special regard for or loyalty toward his own parents or family, on the grounds that we should be charitable and just to everyone and that we shouldn’t regard any family with contempt.  This would obviously be a perverse non sequitur.  That we have obligations of justice and charity to all people and shouldn’t regard other families with contempt simply does not entail that we don’t have special obligations to our own parents and family or that we don’t owe them a special love and loyalty.  In the same way, it is perverse to infer, from the premise that jingoism is wrong, the conclusion that patriotism is wrong too.  Avoiding the one extreme does not justify going to the other extreme.

Accordingly, though the kind of cosmopolitanism that puts loyalty to the international community over national loyalty is often regarded these days as morally superior to patriotism, in fact it is immoral, in a way that is analogous to the immorality of refusing to have a special love and loyalty for one’s own parents and family.  Similarly immoral are views which replace patriotism with loyalty to one’s economic class (as Marxism does), or one’s race (as both left-wing and right-wing brands of racism do), or one’s narrow economic interests (as global corporations do), or oneself as a sovereign individual owing nothing to any social order at all (as anarcho-libertarianism does).

It follows from all this that it is not wrong to favor immigration policies aimed at preserving the economic standing of one’s own countrymen, any more than it is wrong to be more concerned about the employment prospects of one’s siblings than about those of a stranger.  Nor is it wrong to slow or regulate immigration in a way aimed at facilitating the assimilation of newcomers.  On the contrary, as Aquinas argued (Summa Theologiae I-II.105.3), a country has the right to make sure that newcomers “have the common good firmly at heart” before being given full rights of citizenship.  It is true that the vice of excess where patriotism is concerned can make one excessively hostile to immigration, but it is no less true that the vice of deficiency can make one insufficiently cautious about immigration. 

Again, the need to avoid one extreme does not justify going to the other.  It requires holding to the sober – patriotic – middle ground.

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  1. I do enjoy your article, Professor Feser. However, I'd like to know what you think of this argument, often made by racial nationalists:

    Given how we have a special loyalty to our family and country on the grounds that they have given us much in the way of safety, tradition, and culture, would it not also make sense to have a special loyalty to our race as well? Certainly, such a loyalty doesn't involve hatred of other races any more than love of one's family entails hatred of another's family or love of one's country entails hatred of another country. I'd be interested in hearing what you think on the topic.

    1. Of course our resident white nationalist wants to look for a justification of his racism. BTW race is a social construct and not a biological thing.

    2. Mister Geocon,

      Interesting argument made by racial nationalists. What if someone is 1/16 of one race, 1/16 of another, 1/16 of another, 1/8 of another, etc. It is unlikely anyone's ancestry is comprised of just one race. How far back are we to trace? What about the person that is adopted by parents of a different race?

      In the first quote by Dr. Feser, the reasons given by Aquinas for special indebtedness are being and governance. After God, it seems parents (by birth and/or guardianship), and not their specific genes (are there race genes?), would cover the being aspect.

      Also parents and countries are definable things. I'm not sure race is. Again, how far are we tracing back?

    3. To follow up on what Don says.

      According to my DNA test I am about 4% middle eastern and 2% to 6% west African and anywhere between 3% to 13% Scottish and 13% to 43% English. 7% French. (The numbers have shifted as they revised the testing which is why it doesn't always add up to 100%). Then there is the 42% Italian.....

      So what is my "race"? Whom do I owe loyalty too according to you?


    4. Anonymous,

      Good to see you too, troll. I'm not a white nationalist, fyi, but you are probably the kind of person that thinks Pat Buchanan and Paul Gottfried are white nationalists. My mantra is "race isn't everything, but it isn't nothing either."

      Just because race you think race is a "social construct" (which is about the most biologically illiterate thing you could say, btw) is irrelevant. A people is united by a common heritage, a common authority, not common genetics. By saying "race is a social construct, so destroy whiteness," the Left seeks to destroy all that makes Europeans distinct as a people. Our customs, our traditions, our values, our heroes, and our faith are all under attack for being "white."

    5. Don,

      Interesting argument made by racial nationalists. What if someone is 1/16 of one race, 1/16 of another, 1/16 of another, 1/8 of another, etc. It is unlikely anyone's ancestry is comprised of just one race. How far back are we to trace? What about the person that is adopted by parents of a different race?

      Lots of interesting questions. If I were a racial nationalist, I'd say that a mixed-race person would be like a person who had multiple parents through marriage and divorce or a person who had dual allegiance to multiple countries. Those people have a sort of freedom of choice; they can swear allegiance to any part of their heritage (if they desire it).

      White nationalists, by and large, consider the race to be a part of an extended family. We have a common ancestor that is not shared by other races, they'd say. A Christian white nationalists would probably place race in the hierarchy in-between immediate family and country/nation in the hierarchy of commonality. A lot of white nationalists support mono-racial societies for pragmatic reasons, however (e.g. lowering crime rates, increasing social trust, preserving their culture/heritage, or aesthetics).

      In the first quote by Dr. Feser, the reasons given by Aquinas for special indebtedness are being and governance. After God, it seems parents (by birth and/or guardianship), and not their specific genes (are there race genes?), would cover the being aspect.
      Again, their answer would be: the race is a part of the extended family. You owe them allegiance for the same reason you'd owe allegiance to your cousins. It'd be a lesser allegiance, yes, but an allegiance nonetheless.

      Also parents and countries are definable things. I'm not sure race is. Again, how far are we tracing back?
      Race is very much definable, as these scientific studies show:

      Quote from the first article: "withoutusing prior information about the origins of individuals, we identified six maingenetic clusters, five of which correspond to major geographic regions, and subclusters that often correspond to individual populations."

      I don't see how you can say that Africans and Europeans are hard to tell apart. They not only have different skin colors, but different appearances and general behavioral tendencies. And that's not even getting into the cultural differences, which is the meat of what I'm concerned with.

    6. Son of Ya'Kov,

      According to my DNA test I am about 4% middle eastern and 2% to 6% west African and anywhere between 3% to 13% Scottish and 13% to 43% English. 7% French. (The numbers have shifted as they revised the testing which is why it doesn't always add up to 100%). Then there is the 42% Italian.....

      So what is my "race"? Whom do I owe loyalty too according to you?

      According to me? You'd be free to choose any of those groups, if their community's leaders will accept you as one of their own. As long as you are loyal to that group as an extension of your own family, you are part of that group. Genetics may give you something in common, but it's loyalty to a common authority that truly unites a people. I take Throne and Alter blog's view of race when I say that to disregard your ancestors as unimportant is a form of impiety.

      As a side note: nobody, not even most white nationalists, cares about some ideal of racial purity (some white nationalists like the Alternative Hypothesis even mock the idea of genetic purity). A racial nationalist would probably say "look for the people that look like you and act like you the most, and choose them." This is because of their belief that the culture and values of a people is largely determined by their genetics (which, in all fairness, is supported by some scientific data concerning heritability of political attitudes).

    7. There are several problems with extending the idea to race, in my opinion.

      First, because there isn't such a thing as a race. It really is a construct; all we have are combinations of phenotypes and a few traits through genes. Whether there are differences between "races" (itself a controversial notion) wouldn't change that fact either, because such differences would be the product not of any particular thing or genome called "A RACE", but of the nutrition, growth, condition, etc. of one's ancestors, which might accidentally share our phenotypes. Japanese people might exhibit such and such characteristics not because of any "race" thing (which doesn't exist), but because of their diet, the nutrition of their ancestors, etc. You could swap the majority of phenotypes between the Japanese and a black dinka tribe and, provided the historical and environmental conditions were right, the "black Japanese" would end up with the same Japanese traits, and the "Japanese dinka" would get the dinka characteristics. So if anything, if there's a loyalty to be had, it is not towards a "race", but towards the nation(s) of one's ancestors - a form of patriotism - through its culture, diet, and so on. The phenotypes, the "racial appearance" are completely accidental, so they don't matter at all.

      There's also the issue that almost no one has a monolithic ancestral history. Most caucasians, especially in the United States, have some black ancestry in them. Most blacks, especially in the US, have some caucasian ancestry in them. Sometimes to surprisingly high degrees. And even among (e.g.) caucasians, there's the blood of different nations (the Portuguese, French, British, Germans, Italians, etc.) which have different histories and have been involved in wars and disputes among each other. So to create some "fondness" between such ancestries merely because they share some accidental phenotypes - "we all have light skin!" - is quite stupid, I think.

      Finally, even if a "race" were to play into any factor of loyalty (I don't think it should, anyway, but suppose so), it should be a very small one, pretty much negligible. What matters, in the end, are ideas, culture, etc., these are the things that can shape a nation.

    8. First, because there isn't such a thing as a race.

      The notion that race doesn't exist is a bit like saying sex doesn't exist. It kind of does. You can use all of the linguistic word games you want. You can point out how Europeans aren't "genetically pure" all you want. In the end, Africans and Europeans look different, act different, and have different ancestries from each other. Admitting this doesn't make you a racist any more than admitting that men and women are different makes you a sexist.

      Also, race is only "controversial" for the same reason sex is: because it's an inconvenient fact for radical leftists who are at war with human nature.

      So you've already started off very badly.

    9. Mister Geocon,

      Race is just more nebulous of a concept to me than it's thought of by some people (which I imagine would include racial nationalists). Does intermixing of races cause a new race? How far down stream until it does? How many races exist now? Has that number been constant since the start of the human species? Will it or can it change? As it's generally used, "race" is basically just ancestral shorthand, which is fine. I'm definitely not saying get rid of the concept. I just don't think it's as concrete of a thing as is often thought. But I admit to having very minimal knowledge on the subject.

      I understand being indebted to people. I don't see how we can be indebted to an attribute.

    10. @Mister Geocon
      The issue with race I'd say, as the other posters in this conversation have implied, the issue with race is how to define it such that it includes a special set of people to which one has special obligations without it folding into another category that exists as logical matter of course. It seems to me that this is nearly impossible to do, largely because the nature of race, at least as the term has been used for at least the past four hundred years is largely lacking in a concrete fact of the matter. Race is a hodgepodge of of genetics, phenotypical characteristics, cultural influences and social norms which together influence the way that people relate to one another. The problem is, we view these things as indistinguishable primarily due to the conditioned assumptions that have come out of the Enlightenment.

      For example, say that race is primarily or even exclusively a matter of genetics. There's clearly a lot of evidence that many of our properties both physical and behavioral flow from our genetics; the gene for processing lactose seems to originate from Scandinavians and Ashkenazi Jews have around a 120-130 average IQ, to give to stock examples. The problem is, what genetic characteristic constitutes race? Say that a person has skin tones originating in Africa, but also has Nordic milk genes and Ashkenazi intelligence. At the risk of horribly oversimplifying the idea of genetics, to which race should their allegiance be to, if that is the case?

      This is especially difficult as the lactose metabolization and a high IQ aren't visible, and are also passed on in a probabilistic manner; there are people with some Nordic ancestry who are lactose intolerant and there are Ashkenazi with IQ's below the global average. Thus, it seems hard to base race off of such a characteristic. That leaves visible characteristics such as skin color. There doesn't seem to be a non-question-begging reason to default to skin color other than the fact that cultural conditions experienced by people with that skin color influence the moral and personal formation of the person. This impact and debt seems to be far more easily attributed to family and nation respectively, given that they are the origin of these traits. Race isn't doing any "work" then, in preparing the person to meet their purposes as a rational animal, which is what creates the special obligation to family and nation, it seems.

      Race seems to be a category which, far from being essential to human beings is far too culturally conditioned and contingent for any particular loyalty to be owed to it. This is not to say that those to whom one does owe a specific loyalty will not often share traits with you considered "racial," but it makes far more sense to attribute the connection to family, wider community or the nation as a whole.

    11. @Mr Geocon.

      Lololol, you're actually defending white nationalist and their beliefs. Wow you are beyond parody. You're also an ignorant race realist and you're "evidence" is the understanding of someone who clearly hasn't even LOOKED at the material. You really are desperate to justify your racism aren't you.

      Maybe stop looking at your Swastika for a minute and actually educate yourself:

    12. To everyone saying "race is a social construct."

      I provided scientific evidence for why that isn't the case. If you don't address that, then you can't address my actual argument. I already posted the scientific evidence that race is a real, taxonomic category used in science.

      If race is a "falsehood" or purely a social construct, then how come we can identify a person's race through testing?

      Again, this falls into the same problem with the "sex is a social construct" debate. Using mixed-race people to disprove the existence of race is the same as using intersex people to disprove the existence of sex.

    13. @11:48 anon

      Dude, what is your problem? You continuously derail constructive conversations and generally seem to get off on turning the combox into a freakshow. Man the hell up and allow conversations to happen.

      Look, as someone engaged to a person of a different race, I instinctively find Geocon's position here to be abhorrent, but the difference between me and you is that I want to see him civilly and fully articulate his position and engage with the other civil regulars here so that he, they, and other readers of this blog can see with much greater clarity where the truth lies. With that greater clarity comes greater confidence and energy to spread the truth. Shouting at him rather than promoting a detailed exposition on his part does the exact opposite. (Moreover, in light of his civility, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that his positions were honestly arrived at.)

      Let's be clear: Your trigger happy behavior doesn't promote truth one bit -- it only cements others in their previous views, and makes you look like an immature brat.

    14. Other Anonymous,

      Thank you. I think what you're finding is that the 11:58 Anon was completely triggered by someone rationally disagreeing with on the topic of civil religion, so he must scream out how I'm some kind of demon.

      On another note, what part of my views do you find abhorrent though? I mentioned that I am not a white nationalist, and I don't have anything against mixed race relationships morally, even if they have a hard time working practically. All I believe is that 1) race is a real, non-trivial factor in humans, 2) multi-racial societies are more difficult to manage than mono-racial societies and 3) the Civil Rights movement did more harm than good on the whole. Which of these views are "abhorrent"?

    15. So you think black people ending Jim Crow Laws, segregation, lynching, and other atrocities that ended during the Civil Rights movement did more harm than good? You don't deserve a serious discussion as you're not arguing in good faith and are promoting white nationalist drivel and nonsense. Saying the Civil Rights movement did more harm than good is like saying ending persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany did more harm than good. Do you know how offensive that statement is to black people (not that you care of course). Only a white nationalist and upfront racist would hold these views and these are literally white nationalist and white supremacist beliefs. You showed sympathy for white nationalist arguing for a white ethnostate which confirms these are your true intentions. Your research does not show that race is a real thing at all and you're misreading it. You didn't even bother looking at the links which explain the thing in detail. Stop whining about not being taken seriously when you don't engage in good faith at all.

    16. Is there some kind of block button I can use so I can ignore this screeching communist troll?

    17. If you don't want to see my post, just put your KKK hood or Confederate flag over your head.

    18. @Geocon
      First, let me say how disappointing it is engaging, interesting and reasoned discussions keep getting interrupted trolls.

      Now, back to the topic at hand.

      I'm not going to speak for the other posters (though in hindsight I realize much of my post is rather redundant; apparently scrolled through this conversation thread a bit to quickly) I think that people like Charles Murray seem to be on to something when they discuss the way that genetics tends to track certain communities and that the idea of "race" has a sort of scientific existence.

      My assertion is that there seems to be some equivocation going on here between the way that "race" is used in a scientific context and the way that it is used in a sociocultural context. The scientific definition seems to be something akin to "a set of genotypal characteristics that tend to correlate throughout a relatively homogeneous population." The cultural definition clearly bears some relationship to this scientific reality, but is conditioned through the lens of cultural traditions and mores, many of which are either arbitrary and hence subject to debate, or can be more easily ascribed to the realities of family and nation. As a moral category of human life, it is my assertion that whatever the underlying scientific realities are, they don't create a human reality of sufficient metaphysical weight to create a true moral obligation of the sort you suggested in your original post. There are plenty of scientific categories that are demonstrably true and yet don't create the sort of communal entity undergird obligations of the type we have to family and country.

      I am open to counterarguements on this, but since my assertion is (and I should have clarified this above) that the thin scientific reality of race isn't enough on its own, and hence scientific data won't establish obligation by itself.

    19. Also, putting this in another post so we don't get the two discussions confused, why do you believe that the Civil Rights Movement did more harm than good? There are certainly ways that it was abused, but it seems that at least as advocated by Dr. King and the nonviolent advocates, it was largely moral in means and in end (the end being the arbitrary removal of blacks from social services provided to other groups as well as their forced placement into a level of second class citizens inequally protected under the law)

    20. The way I see, race is an example of an either/or thing. There's "race-as-a-social-construct" and there's "race-as-biological-reality." The relationship between the two is analogous to the relationship between gender and sex, with gender being the specific instantiation of sex within a particular cultural context. We recognize that the African-American and the African from Ghana have similarities in their ancestry, moreso than would a European-American. But culturally, there would be similarities between the two Americans that you wouldn't find with the Ghanan because the two of them were raised in the same country (and possibly within the same society).

      Now, the question is this: how much does "race-as-biological-reality" affect "race-as-a-social-construct"? Most racial nationalists would say that the latter is determined entirely on the former. Most normal conservatives would say that the two have no relation to each other. I'd lean towards the center. While race seems to affect certain behavioral tendencies, there's nothing ingrained in African-Americans that makes them (say) see all white people as devils, vote Democrat, or any of things I'd find disagreeable.

    21. Sounds like we're pretty close to agreement then, at least in the broad strokes. I'm probably a bit closer to the standard conservative tack, but it sounds like that's a matter of degree rather than principle.
      However, while I think that the scientific reality of sex is "thick" enough to justify many of the obligations that have almost universally gone with notions of gender, I think my answer to your original question would be no, that the scientific implications of race are not "thick" enough to do the same thing.

    22. Also, putting this in another post so we don't get the two discussions confused, why do you believe that the Civil Rights Movement did more harm than good? There are certainly ways that it was abused, but it seems that at least as advocated by Dr. King and the nonviolent advocates, it was largely moral in means and in end (the end being the arbitrary removal of blacks from social services provided to other groups as well as their forced placement into a level of second class citizens inequally protected under the law)

      Thank you for asking. Much of my information comes from Christopher Caldwell's The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. There's one part of it that really stuck out to me: "Once social issues could be cast as battles over civil rights, Republicans would lose 100 percent of the time. The agenda of 'diversity' advanced when its proponents won elects and when they lost them. Voters had not yet figured that out. As soon as they did, the old style of democratic politics would be dead."

      The Civil Rights movement set into law the precedent that any tradition, any law, any ideal could be torn down in the name of pursuing social justice. Once the ball got rolling, there was no stopping it. There was no limiting principle to civil rights. It's telling that less than a month after MLK made his "I Have a Dream" speech, he called for "discrimination in reverse... a sort of national atonement for the sins of the past." Whatever his motivations, MLK was the architect of the insanity that plagues race relations today.

    23. @Mister Geocon

      Stop reading Mein Kampf. Not even the Confederate leaders believed in shit that extreme.

      A country that is an ethnic homeland (e.g. England) should be dominated by that ethnicity (English). It would be really strange if King John XXII of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Wales were Korean. But that's not race, but about ethnic solidarity. And ethnic solidarity does extend to loyalty to your own diaspora.

    24. This whole argument is a futile exercise in non-sequitur.

      Can you give me an example of how your race has given you anything in tradition, safety and culture, separate from your family and nation?

    25. Once social issues could be cast as battles over civil rights, Republicans would lose 100 percent of the time.

      While that may be true, it does take a bit of a consequentialist look at the Civil Rights Movement. Looking at many of the morally based arguments given by the leaders of the movement, arising as it did largely out of Christian circles, it seems unfair to blame them for what has come to pass since then, especially when much of that had more to do with the rise of the Sexual Revolution and the collapse of a classical ideals of community and citizenship during the cultural turmoil of the mid 20th century. To know if MLK was really culpable, I would have to know if that statement was an isolated nonsequiteur or truly a part of the goals of his movement.

      As for a day of national atonement, I wouldn't mind that for two things: slavery and abortion. Both are evils that the nation is in some way culpable for as a whole. This becomes a problem however when things such as race-based reparations come in, or the idea that individuals have to apologize or bear the burden of personal responsibility for something that happened when most of their ancestors were still peasants in Europe. Even those of us with large amounts of pre-Revolution English descent had nothing to do with the crimes. The nation must be chastised, but the modern race conflict ideology basically places an inherent culpability on individuals who had nothing to do with perpetrating the offense, which is sheer lunacy.

    26. My point was ignored. Race isn't a thing, because even if there is the (already controversial) scientific data with Geocon points out, it wouldn't be established that these differences and classifications could be there IN VIRTUE of some nebulous thing called "race". We're all human beings at the end of the day, the thing is that we have different genetic ancestries but what may actually have influenced the traits associated with these genetic ancestries are stuff like dieting, environmental conditions and so on. Of course there are different genetic groups and you may even try to come up with racial classifications for certain differences present within other genetic groups, but *WHY* would such and such a group have this difference? Is it due to having yellow skin (????) or is it actually due to having had a specific diet, nutrition as a child, and having ancestors with that specific nutrition and environmental conditions, and culture, etc? There is no such thing as a "race", it is a fantasy concept trying to group people by virtue of different accidents. We have genetics, yes, and genetic traits can develop independently from phenotypes. If there are differences between Japanese and British, these differences for the most part are not simply due to how they look (except for minor things such as resistance to the sun), but due to their diet, ancestral history, etc. Again, you could get "black Japanese" and "Japanese dinka" if you switched the conditions, nutrition, etc. Because it is not a matter of "race" (which itself is an ill-defined concept), not a matter of phenotypes, but a matter of nutrition, growth, diet, etc.

      There is no such thing as race. The fact that purported "race realists" have to blur the lines and allow people to "identify with who they think they look like or have the highest ancestry numbers" is simply a testament to how ill-defined and nebulous the concept is.

      There is no decent, serious scientific evidence for "race" in the manner I discussed. This is the rational issue.

      On another note, the concept of a "race" can be so vague and so large that I can't help but think it is childish to attempt to identify with it like that, apart from national ties. I can feel proud to be a member of a certain nation, because that specific nation has a concrete relationship with me and I can actually contributr to that nation. It would however be quite pathetic for me to feel "proud" of being white; even more so considering that the history of my white ancestors has included conflicts between their own countries, so there's not even any basis for allegiance to be had.

    27. And purported "races", for the most part, would encompass so large groups of people that it would be quite frivolous to "be grateful" to a particular race for anything. The things we actually get come from the family and the nation (and nations and communities are often multi-racial).

    28. Mister Geocon,

      Anyone could post a bunch of articles that argue the opposite of the articles which you posted. (Google "Is race scientific" or something similar and you've find several.) Neither side is going to accomplish much with that approach. (I've read 3 of your posted articles by the way and everything I've said still applies. That fact that certain studies can "identify" race with high--but not 100% across the board--degree just suggests it's not a definable thing. It's nebulous.)

      I see intersex defined as a "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." Unless we want to start putting certain races in the anomaly category the analogy doesn't hold.

      Good discussion between you and Casual Thomist. Brings to my mind a question: How are you defining race?

    29. @Don
      I can't speak for Geocon, but, at the risk of being ad-hoc, I would define race as a set of genotypic and phenotypic organism traits that tend to "track" together through a relatively homogeneous community, hence my examples of Ashkenazi IQ and Nordic lactose metabolism above. I would argue that this is a scientifically established reality. However,its not one, I would assert, that should have any impact on our conduct and relations with others. Does it? Unfortunately yes. Should it? I would argue not.

    30. Balanced,

      Nice job. If you try hard enough, you might just reach the heights (depths?) of hysterics like our anonymous communist troll friend. Nobody here is a Nazi, so cool your jets.

      Scriba Dei,

      Can you give me an example of how your race has given you anything in tradition, safety and culture, separate from your family and nation?

      Well, race isn't exactly separate from your family and nation. It denotes a common ancestry. I can say that Frenchmen and Englishmen have more in common than Englishmen and the Bantu because the latter two separated as a people later on than the former two. Your race gave you your ethnicity, your traditions, and your family.

      Casual Thomist,

      If you look at the architects of the Civil Rights era - MLK, JFK, and LBJ - all of them enacted a policy of forced integration, affirmative action, and wealth redistribution. MLK himself was a socialist in his politics. I'm of the opinion that any notion of a "colorblind society" was just rhetoric used inconsistently by these characters to appease moderates of the era. I don't really see how else I can describe it.


      This is just language games. I could use your very arguments and apply them to sex, and they'd work just as well. You know what the definition of race is - "common ancestry." Everything else is nit-picking designed to obfuscate.


      I'm defining race as categories of humanity based on common ancestry. Also,

      I see intersex defined as a "congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system." Unless we want to start putting certain races in the anomaly category the analogy doesn't hold.

      This is irrelevant. My point still stands that some "in-between" category doesn't invalidate the existence of categories, period. Why can't there be races and multi-racial people are just part of multiple races at once?

    31. @Geocon
      I'll admit that I haven't studied the leadership of the Civil Rights movement incredibly closely, so I'll just have to take your word for it. If that is truly what those three advocated, they certainly aren't people we want to hold up as examples. I would certainly agree that Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty did faaar more harm than good. However, the Civil Rights Movement did largely undo a very unjust system of apartheid, and whether or not that is cancelled out by its bad legacies, or those agendas that aligned themselves with it, we should be thankful that de jure racial segregation is a thing of the past.

    32. Geocon,

      Please try applying my arguments to sex. You can't. Sex is a real biological category. Race isn't. There is no such thing as "the white race". And my point is that even if you stretch things so as to argue we can talk about "the Japanese race" as that collective genetic group, that would not justify any sentiment of gratitude or loyalty towards this "race" as such. Why? Because such a collective genetic group will be largely accidental - again, the vast majority of the inherited genetic traits have nothing to do with the phenotype, and much more to do with the diet and nutrition of their ancestors. Should you now argue that we are to have a patriotic-equivalent feeling of loyalty and gratitude towards dietary groups? Hence the point that you could have black Japanese and Japanese dinka. The phenotypes that people commonly use for identifying "races" are, in the vast majority of cases, only ACCIDENTALLY connected to the inherited traits.

      Is it clearer, now? No, you cannot make the same argument with sex.

      Moreover, there's the other issues I've mentioned. Not only is "race" an extremely nebulous concept, but it could encompass such a large and diverse group of people that it would seriously risk being meaningless as the object of any pride, gratitude or loyalty. It would be quite pathetic to be loyal to "the white race", for example. Not so with concrete cases of family and nations.

    33. @Casual Thomist

      We are both under the opinion that the system of Jim Crow was a bad system. I won't say racial segregation is per se bad, but I will say that a system that seemed to be sadistic and mean-spirited in its tenor (racially segregated water fountains!?) couldn't have been justified. I mean, it seems as though parts of it had no purpose but to humiliate black people.

      That said, that doesn't mean that the Left unleashed something that was, quite possibly, much more destructive in the end, even if they did so with the best of intentions.

    34. And of course, the connections are not accidental in the cases of nations and families. They just ARE the culture/society and (literally) the family that give us the benefits. The things we are to be grateful for, and the subjects, are essentially connected; it is the nation qua nation that gives us such and such culture and benefits. It is not a white man qua white man that gives us anything; the connections with phenotypes are entirely accidental. It is ridiculous to suggest the defense of patriotism could be extended to a defense of loyalty towards one's "race", the relationships are completely different.

    35. @Geocon
      That could very well be true, though I think its a bit too contingent to for us to determine things one way or another. The problem is that the secular intellectual assumptions which allowed the idea of rights to snowball into the atrocity we know today. I believe that without that post-sexual revolution context the trend they unleashed could have been rather innocuous.

      We are in full agreement though that its unleashing in the post sexual revolution context has in fact turned out to bring something far worse than even the wickedness it sought to destroy, and within a disturbingly short time period as well (1972). In hindsight I might have recommended a different way for certain.

      This entire discussion began based on Geocon speculating on whether or not the category of race could be one that manifests a special obligation of loyalty. I don't know Geo's exact opinions on the matter, but it doesn't seem like he's presented any positive arguments so unless he says something different, I must advise against beating a dead horse.

    36. Mister Geocon,

      Well, I believe it is relevant. A broken light switch doesn't change the fact that a proper light switch is either on or off. And the fact that on/off switches can malfunction doesn't make them analogous to the color scale. Races are analogous to the color scale and not on/off switches. There are countless shades of green and who's to say when it ceases to be green and starts being blue. That doesn't mean color isn't real. It's just that green is a nebulous distinction. I don't object to your definition of race but outside of siblings no two people have identical ancestories. So the distinctions become nebulous. Not unreal, just nebulous; hence the "common" before "ancestory." Honestly, I think we agree more than we disagree on our understandings of race. Our main disagreement seems to be the original point of whether or not common ancestory alone can be a reason for indebtedness.

    37. Casual Thomist,

      My position on race is this: race is only valuable in the things that it gives us. Our loyalty to our race is fairly minimal compared to our loyalty to our families and ethnicity, but it still generates duties. For instance, a black man would have a special duty to defend his race in the abstract from being scapegoated as evil by non-blacks. I'd also add that preserving our cultural heritage is another duty generated out of this sort of thing, though that would probably better belong to an ethnicity than a race (since race is basically a collection of ethnic groups).

      As for Civil Rights: it's the perfect political tool of the revolution tearing our country apart. As Caldwell describes, it essentially created a parallel constitution for America with its own logic that was alien to the logic of what came before. It essentially meant that any "liberation" movement (whether it be Black Power, feminist, or sexual revolutionary) could use "Civil Rights" as a means of imposing their will onto society while bypassing the normal democratic process. In my opinion, the original architects intended to use it to destroy the WASP ruling class and replace them with a new elite, which would've been pretty sleazy in itself, but it quickly was used to demolish pretty much all aspects of society.

    38. Casual Thomist,

      I can get on board with that definition. I think we're all largely in agreement on our understanding of "race." If there's disagreement then, as you stated to Atno, it's over the idea of indebtedness to one's race.

    39. As for Civil Rights: it's the perfect political tool of the revolution tearing our country apart. As Caldwell describes, it essentially created a parallel constitution for America with its own logic that was alien to the logic of what came before.

      Mary Ann Glendon has said several things in her discussion of American "rights talk" in general, and how it is typically wielded as a way to force upheaval of set social norms. If there's no way that the Civil Rights Movement can be unwedded from that, then I agree that it did more harm than good, though I don't possess the requisite knowledge to determine that for myself.

      As for race, I'd say that other than Atno, were discussing degrees at this point. I can concede that we have an obligation to defend one's race against scapegoating and crude stereotypes, but not sure that that's distinct enough from the general duty to one's fellow man to make a relevant different. Even so, we're agreed on the same sort of thing but just with slightly different justifications for why it is the case.

    40. Casual Thomist,

      Well, there are two rival views of the Constitution in America, both which depend on "rights talk" - the classically liberal "originalist" view held by many right-wingers and the egalitarian liberal "civil rights" view held by many left-wingers. These views have been prominent in American life since the beginning of the twentieth century at least, but ever since WW2 (and especially since the Civil Rights era), the latter has been especially privileged by our institutions. I believe that this can be explained by a number of factors, including the Patron Theory of Politics, according to which centers of power within a divided governance structure (which liberalism practically requires to function) will employ equality and therefore employ agitators for equality as means to undermine their competitors.

      So, applying this to Martin Luther King Jr., we see that he was propped up by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, among others. These organizations believed, among other things, that Jim Crow would make it easier for political radicals to recruit African-Americans to their cause. So they sort of co-opted the movement themselves. You can also look into how these movements, which largely included communists, came to create a kind of anti-capitalism couched entirely within a racial periphery grievance narrative rather than in the economic grievances themselves. Very convenient for those progressive billionaires, eh? This becomes painfully obvious when one looks at the modern incarnations of the Civil Rights movement, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Intersectionality” and Critical Race Theory, which were both funded by (you guessed it) the Rockefeller Foundation through the Bellagio project.

      Everything I've said is a matter of public record. It's not some crazed conspiracy, it's just how politics works under liberalism. There's a great article in City Journal that details this called “The Billions of Dollars That Made Things Worse.” I'd also check out the essay "The Patron Theory of Politics," which is over on the Journal of Neoabsolutism.

    41. Anon number X,
      "Look, as someone engaged to a person of a different race,"
      You just admitted that race is real. Presumably if you are engaged to be married to a person you know some amount of detail about that individual.

      Why would you say you were engaged to a person of another race if race was not real? Are your words merely the result of a socially constructed delusion you are suffering from?

    42. This is a good article on this topic. "On Race and the Magisterium"

    43. @Geocon
      Checked out the articles. Sobering stuff for sure. I can definitely understand where you're coming from and agree with a lot of it.

      While I believe that race has some reality, I believe that Anon was just acknowledging the conventional term for what the topic being discussed was. That doesn't necessarily require one to admit that the construct has any basis in reality, though again I believe that it does.

    44. The screeching troll is AKG. He's an hysterical, mentally unbalanced SJW and is banned here.

  2. What if you're born in a country with an ideology and culture anithetical to Catholicism (i.e. North Korea), is patriotism still a virtue or vice?

    1. A virtue. You love the sin and hate the sinner. That's the Christian way. The same applies for countries.

    2. And patriotism could even lead one to participate in a just revolution, if it was warranted, much the way a son can charitably chastise his father. I would argue something like that happened in 1776. The American Revolution was one of the most amicable revolutions (insofar as alliances with England were quickly reformed) in human history.

    3. Anonymous wrote, "What if you're born in a country with an ideology and culture anithetical to Catholicism (i.e. North Korea), is patriotism still a virtue or vice?"

      The earliest Christians were born in just such a country (viz. the Roman Empire), and they were charged with the crime of treason, among other things: They wouldn't participate in any social and military activities of the country, because all those activities involve idol-worship, which was antithetical to their religion.

      In his Apology, the third-century Church Father Tertullian argued that the earliest Christians, many of whom were pacifists, were patriots, because Christian beliefs and practices were good for Rome (or any country).

      I tend to think that to be patriotic is to hope for and do whatever is good for one's country. We have very different ideas about patriotism, because we don't agree on what is "good". For that matter, we don't even agree on what is good for an individual, let alone a country,

    4. Scott wrote, "And patriotism could even lead one to participate in a just revolution, if it was warranted, much the way a son can charitably chastise his father."

      I'm not sure that doing violence to one's father can ever be characterized as "charitable".

      Maybe I'm too naive, but I tend to think there are always peaceful and better alternatives to revolution.

      For example, the earliest Christians transformed the Roman Empire without a revolution. Some of the Commonwealth nations achieved independence from the British Empire without bloodshed, so the US could have achieved the same, at least in theory.

    5. Non-violence is always the first attempt. That is a requirement for just-war theory. But if you have a drunken father who is attacking your mother with a knife, then doing physical violence to him IS in fact the most charitable thing you can do. Perhaps by preventing from murdering his wife (at the cost of his arm being broken) you could contribute to his reconciliation and rehabilitation. A broken arm can often heal faster than a broken soul. So likewise for a tyrannical government. Although, again, all just war criteria must be met first, which means violence would be a last resort.

    6. To restrain a drunken father without breaking his arm (or any other part of his body) would be preferable, one would think.

      It seems to me revolution is more like killing one's father, not just breaking his arm. I'm curious how you would justify that using the just war theory.

    7. Well if you cannot restrain him without breaking his arm, then you would be obligated to break his arm. Even killing him would be better than allowing him to kill an innocent human, if you believe that man has a supernatural end. It is better to lose one’s life than one’s soul. That is to say that you are preventing a greater evil for your father (to become the perpetrator of a horrible crime) at the cost of a lesser evil (the loss of his life).

    8. Scott,

      Just to be clear, I'm not arguing against the use of force, but *unjust* use of force. That's what I mean by "violence".

      Well if you cannot restrain him without breaking his arm, then you would be obligated to break his arm.

      No. Because it takes greater force to break someone than to restrain him. Breaking one's arm is an excessive use of force, and so should be avoided.

      Even killing him would be better than allowing him to kill an innocent human,

      No. By killing him, you will have become a killer yourself. That is not a lesser evil, even if one believes in the supernatural.

      I'm still curious how this relates to the just war theory.

    9. Are you saying that killing in self defense is just as evil as killing an innocent human being?

      And you must not have much martial arts experience if you think it is easier to restrain someone than it is to break their arm. It takes a significant disproportion of strength to safely restrain someone without injuring them (like a man restraining a woman or a child) a man trying to restrain a man without injuring him when said man has equal or greater strength than himself will more often than not be unsuccessful.

      This relates to just war theory and just revolution theory insofar as it explicated the necessary conditions for initiating a just war. It sounds like you are suggesting there are no such conditions.

    10. And if I used the word “violence”, I did not mean it in the technical sense of being unjust. I merely meant it in the sense of using force.

    11. Scott,

      If I understand it correctly, one of the goals of martial art training is to gain self-control. It is more difficult to exercise restraint than to use either deficient or excessive force, which is why self-control is a rare virtue.

      A person with self-control would not use excessive force on others to achieve his/her objective, I would think.

      You wrote, "Are you saying that killing in self defense is just as evil as killing an innocent human being?"

      I am concerned that a lot of crimes can be committed in the name of "self defense". For example, preemptively killing one's neighbour, because one suspects the neighbour is attempting to kill him; Committing genocide because one believes that the other group is a threat to one's own group, etc.

      "the necessary conditions for initiating a just war. It sounds like you are suggesting there are no such conditions."

      I'm not asserting there are no such conditions. But, if there are, I'm wondering what those conditions might be.

    12. Well I can grant all of that. That is where the virtue of prudence comes into play. But generally in self-defense, the danger has to be eminent and grave. For example, he is pointing a gun at you or coming at you with a knife. Perhaps a woman could use lethal force for a man attacking her with his bare hands, but fully grown man probably could not justify using such force in a similar situation. The same principle would apply to just war (and revolution) theory in general.

      Were the Jews really hurting the German people to the point where mass genocide was justified, certainly not (of course I would say it could never be justified because just war theory does not permit killing of non-combatants). Even if we granted for the sake of argument that the Jews were really a threat to other German citizens, surely mass deportation would be a measure to take before genocide. Of course I would say that is also gravely immoral, but I think the point is that there is a huge chasm between prudential judgement and mass murder. Perhaps there is a line where the morality of a particular situation is murky, but the fact that there are gray areas does not mean that the principles are not sound. After all, sorites problems can be found all throughout philosophy, so that is not unique to just war theory.

    13. It seems to me revolution is more like killing one's father, not just breaking his arm. I'm curious how you would justify that using the just war theory.

      Not at all. Revolution rightly does not aim at the destruction / eradication of the NATION, only of bringing down the (gravely unjust) government. It aims to replace the bad government of the nation with a good of the nation, leaving the nation then in a better position. Thus the subject, the nation, ultimately is done a service, not a harm.

      Whether a bad government (or ruler) can be brought down without war is certainly a matter of prudence: in many cases, those who are suffering the wrong have no reasonable prospect of success in trying a war, and so could not justly start a war. For them, other methods would be necessary. For other situations, where just and upright men could successfully (and justly) wage a war to overthrow the unjust government, their moral analysis still must consider whether any lesser means could also achieve a similar good; and also whether the likely government they could establish afterwards would be enough better to justify the nation suffering the harms of the war itself. Such an analysis is not unlike that used in using force to overcome an unjust attack: St. Thomas (with Augustine) point out that the Christian should simply turn the other cheek and accept the harm, unless the common good is better served by repelling the unjust attack. This is normally presumed to be the case for those who have care of the common good, and those who have the duty to protect the innocent.

    14. Scott,

      But generally in self-defense, the danger has to be eminent and grave

      That only speaks to the condition for immediate action. I see no justification for lethal force even under such condition. There might be extenuating circumstances, but not justification.

      Speaking of prudence, it seems more prudent to take action before the danger becomes eminent and grave. In other words, self-defense can be pre-meditated too.

      You explained why mass genocide is immoral according to the just war theory, but not why mass deportation is immoral. So I ask out of curiosity, why is the latter immoral?

    15. Tony,

      I wrote, "It seems to me revolution is more like killing one's father, not just breaking his arm..."

      You responded, "Not at all. Revolution rightly does not aim at the destruction / eradication of the NATION, only of bringing down the (gravely unjust) government."

      Well, I guess it depends on how one analogize body politic to the human body. If the government is the head, then certainly bringing down the government is decapitation. You can reconstruct a new body by reusing all the other body parts, but it is no longer the same person/nation.

      You wrote, "whether the likely government they could establish afterwards would be enough better to justify the nation suffering the harms of the war itself."

      I doubt that type of analysis was ever done in the history of mankind. Everyone would think they could do better than the governing caste until they became it. To use the body analogy again, it is like performing a plastic surgery to change the face from time to time, but the person remains as unjust as ever.

    16. Well, I guess it depends on how one analogize body politic to the human body. If the government is the head, then certainly bringing down the government is decapitation. You can reconstruct a new body by reusing all the other body parts, but it is no longer the same person/nation.

      I don't think history bears that out. The Roman nation experienced a revolution of its government during the period from the death of Julius Caesar to the naming of Octavian as emperor. But it remained the Roman nation throughout. More recently, the French nation experienced a "decapitation" of government once when the Revolution toppled the monarchy, and afterwards it was still France; then it had another when Napoleon was removed, and it was still France; then it had another when the king was again removed, and it STILL was France as the subject of the new government. Etc, and now they are on their 5th republic, but each republic ruled France, not some brand new nation. The nation was still made of the same subject matter (people, places, physical accoutrements), with the same mores, same customs, same religion: the same nation.

    17. Tony,

      You wrote, "I don't think history bears that out."

      I think it would be more precise to say that your definition of "nation" differs from mine, and history can confirm neither.

      Certainly one cannot speak of "nation" without thinking about the people, places and customs. But, to my mind, what defines a "nation" is its constitution, including the system of government, relations between different groups, and whether and how they contribute to and benefit from the common good. A monarchy is constituted differently from a republic. So the Roman Empire is a different nation from the Roman Republic, even though the same people may live in the same places.

  3. Well stated. I hope Donald Trump takes such sentiments to heart, in the light of his talk of "shithole countries", "Mexican rapists" etc.

    Love of one's country entails recognizing and trying to heal what is wrong with it. Trump's country (especially the WASP heritage he glories in) has taken on much ugliness that true love must cleanse. Not from a leftist perspective of course, but from a Christian angle. The only thing we can be certain of when dealing with the BLM idiocy is that we CAN'T defeat it with evil. The next point is that no BLM type falsehood should ever drive us to embrace another falsehood. Thanks goodness we have Aquinas to provide the correct position on such matters. What a pity such a position does not exist in the political debate.

    1. Aren't you the same person who wants BLM to tear down statues of Confederate soldiers? Or am I thinking of a different "Anonymous"?

    2. Course not. Though one day, a truly Christian United States will find better things to put up statues to than slavers and Founding Enlighteners. Obviously the attack on the past is nihilistic and wrong but we Catholics have to maintain our psychological distance from all enlighteners and their philosophies.

      Our Faith makes us understand the terrible legacy of United States foreign policy from day one against the Catholic nations of our hemisphere. From the "Founding Fathers" till today there has been an absolute obsession with destroying the Catholic character of these nations. It continues today under Trump with the deliberate promotion of religious sects in central and South America. They are used as a means of influencing internal politics in these nations, and the policy has been part and parcel of "MAGA".

      No. Catholics must maintain their distance. Of course, if this comment is just a distraction from mainstream waspish angst, and idle trolling of good patriots, I'll just shut my Catholic mouth and let you get on with it.

    3. Course not. Though one day, a truly Christian United States will find better things to put up statues to than slavers and Founding Enlighteners. Obviously the attack on the past is nihilistic and wrong but we Catholics have to maintain our psychological distance from all enlighteners and their philosophies.

      In my opinion, this "distance" is an act of impiety. You owe the Founders of our country your loyalty for defending your country. And, if you're a Southerner, you owe the Confederate war heroes your loyalty for defending the South from Northern aggression. Your way of thinking (dividing America by religion such that people of one religious faith have no common authorities at all) is pretty tribalistic.

    4. In my opinion, this "distance" is an act of impiety. You owe the Founders of our country your loyalty for defending your country. And, if you're a Southerner, you owe the Confederate war heroes your loyalty for defending the South from Northern aggression.

      That seems to imply that we are required to celebrate even the villains and atrocities of our country whereas maintaining proper love for it (willing its good) requires that we condemn its past evils. We can respect the Founding Fathers for their vision in establishing this body politic while at the same time adding a large asterisk in our own minds and when educating our children about them; there doesn't seem to be much inconsistent about that.

      As for the southerners in the Civil War, I think it would depend on whether or not their insurrection against the divinely inspired authority of the body politic was justified. Considering that the seceded to repudiate a national election that they feared would force them to abandon an institution that was morally abhorrent, in spite of repeated assurances by the newly elected president that he did not wish to impose abolition on the south. Given the circumstances, the Confederate leadership were not defending against aggression but rather resisting the legitimate forces of their own government far before secession was morally licit as a means of preserving themselves. I'd put secession in the same category as revolution or tyrannicide; can it be done justly? Yes, but there had better not be any other viable options before resorting to it.

    5. @Mr Geocon.

      I guess Germans owe loyalty to Nazis war "heroes" for defending Nazi Germany against the aggression of the allies right? Answer this question.

      Tell me, does the fact that the Confederacy sought to preserve the enslavement of black people and many of these so called "heroes" brutally beat and tortured their slaves not bother you? Do you really think people like this should be called heroes? If so your KKK hood must be on too tight. Celebrating Confederate generals is akin to celebrating Nazi leaders. You are aware Stone Mountain in Georgia which is a Confederate monument is literally seen as a holy place by the KKK (and you too I bet).

    6. That seems to imply that we are required to celebrate even the villains and atrocities of our country whereas maintaining proper love for it (willing its good) requires that we condemn its past evils. We can respect the Founding Fathers for their vision in establishing this body politic while at the same time adding a large asterisk in our own minds and when educating our children about them; there doesn't seem to be much inconsistent about that.
      Well, we generally agree, except for one thing: I don't believe that real life is like a comic book. There are no "villains of history," people with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

      Also, by your logic, I'd have to condemn the Founding Fathers for their crimes, of which there were many. Their ideology was quasi-anarchist Freemason nonsense, their justifications for revolt were based on the imaginary crimes of the British, and the tactics they used were akin to the tactics of Antifa thugs. But I still revere them as the Founders of America because they are the Founders of America. You honor your mother and father, even while recognizing that they are imperfect human beings like yourself. This is something that's been forgotten because we like to imagine ourselves and our side as "the heroes" and our enemies as "the villains" as if real life were akin to a superhero comic book.

      Also, hello anonymous communist troll! No, I'm not going to answer your questions. Go away.

    7. Apologies as I was speaking somewhat rhetorically in the use of the term "villains". I agree with everything you said about the Founding Fathers' disturbing connection with Masonry and the fact that the rebellion was unjust, and do condemn both.

      However, they also have a redeeming legacy in their (relatively) pure motives for establishing good, limited government in the body politic, and giving us a system of balanced authority, even if it is stained with the taint of anti-Catholicism. We can respect them for very real achievements, defend memorials in their honor, and yet still maintain the distance referenced by the other poster.

      The southern usurpers have no such legacy and no such intentions. Thus, while I do admire the nobility of character present in people such as General Lee, I don't think holding them up as political heroes makes much sense. If you can demonstrate that their conduct after the war shows a genuine attempt to make ammends and reunify the country (contrition), as shown in the case of Lee and people like General Joseph Wheeler, we have a different case there. But honoring them because they were rebelling against a so-called "war of Northern aggression" when in fact they were repudiating the results of a national election, throwing the body politic of both their home regions and those regions their homes were bound to into disarray and in many cases renouncing specific oaths they made to the Constitution of the United States, we have no grounds for honoring them as political heroes.

    8. Lee had no nobility. Most of his alleged nobility is false propaganda. He was a brutal and heartless slave owner:


      "I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy."

      "Lee’s cruelty as a slave master was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.” "

      "When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.” "

    9. @Anonymous
      I never said he didn't have vices and clearly his treatment of his slaves was his worst. But he had virtues as well. His character and piety are attested to frequently by both his former comrades and enemies in battle. He had the opportunity to continue the Civil War as a guerrilla campaign after Petersburg and instead chose to surrender and cease further bloodshed. He then dedicated much of professional life after the war to reconciling the divided nation. I am arguing that he is not worthy of admiration in one respect, but in another, he is.

    10. I'm sure Nazis would say the same thing about Nazi generals. Are you going to now go on about the virtues of them now and say we should respect them in some respects?

      Tell me how much of this "reconciling a divided nation" involved treating African-Americans are equal human beings or defending their rights?

    11. Of course there are villains of history, what kind of nonsense is this? People can have redeeming qualities and in this sense there might not be comic book villains, or these are at least rare. But there are still people who, overall, were villains of history. Hitler was definitely a villain, for instance, because despite the goods he achieved for Germany for some time, he enacted horribly evil policies and helped drag the world into a massive war, and promoted genocide. Stalin and Mao were definitely villains as well. There is no point in keeping up ANY statues of Mao, if you ask me.

      As far as Confederate leaders go, I cannot speak much since I don't know enough of the history. But it does seem weird to keep honoring a Confederacy that basically, radically adopted for the risky and imprudent idea of secession (at least in part) to maintain a horribly immoral system of slavery. Statues could have been good to help heal the wounds, but now, at this point in time, American society might be better off without such figures. It should be decided on a case by case basis.

    12. @Atno
      I am very hesitant to use the term "villain" in any context outside of fiction. While we can certainly judge acts as being good or evil, and certain acts or positions can give us close to a moral certainty the a person has a certain degree of moral depravity, I would still hesitate to describe a person as a villain without knowing the objective state of their soul.

      As for Confederate statues, I'm rather ambiguous on them. I certainly don't think putting up any new statues of Confederate leaders would be justified, but I'm of the opinion that before we demolish anything from the past (be it material or immaterial), we better know for certain why it was erected. If statues of Confederate generals were in fact meant to be displays of defiance and racial superiority, then the government should certainly not use taxpayer money to maintain them and should probably have them demolished. However, if they are meant to foster some civic good, such as to highlight some other specific good that the individual in question performed. Since there is some controversy over Lee, let me take General James Longstreet as an alternative example.

      He became a Republican and in his work with the Louisiana state militia after the war was involved in multiple suppression of white supremacist groups, including through the use of armed black militias. He made intentional efforts to foster unity and restore the country's order as well. I would assert that his postwar deeds would make removal of a statue of him counterproductive to say the least.

    13. Atno,

      Of course there are villains of history, what kind of nonsense is this?

      It's the kind of nonsense that looks at people where they are and sees what they are like at their core, rather than subscribing to this kind of Manichaen tribalism that says "all the people on my side are good; all the people on the other side are demons." I mean, if you want to talk about Nazism, this is pretty much what the Nazis did with regards to the Jews.

    14. If you have a problem with the word "villain", can we speak of evil people, at least? Surely there are evil people. And surely Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were very evil. Society should not celebrate evil people. That was kinda my point, I think you are needlessly complicating it.

      And while surely the confederate generals were not as evil as the people I mentioned, arguments can still be made for their being on the wrong side of history, that we shouldn't celebrate them, etc.

    15. Casual Thomist,

      As I said, it should be judged on a case by case basis.

    16. Atno,

      By this logic, I could say that the Founding Fathers of America were evil men, as they were, objectively speaking, the leaders of a violent, angry mob rebelling against a just authority on the basis of a Alex Jones-like conspiracy theory that the English monarchy was secretly planning to create a Catholic totalitarian state and guided by an insane, quasi-anarchist political philosophy built up by hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah.

      Oh, but they were on the "right side of history," so their crimes are forgotten.

    17. @Anon,

      I guess Germans owe loyalty to Nazis war "heroes" for defending Nazi Germany against the aggression of the allies right? Answer this question.

      Well, the Allies were all white supremacists and white nationalists (even the Communists) by todays standards so the intersectional types should be putting up statues to German generals like Keitel and Sepp Dietrich because they destroyed a lot of white power and potential and weakened white European countries and empires seriously in the longer term.

    18. Geocon,

      I have no idea how you thought that. I never made any comparison between the Founding Fathers and Hitler. I said Hitler, Stalin and Mao were definitely evil and on the wrong side of history. We can judge historical leaders as evil, and as being on the wrong side of history. I don't think that was the case with the American revolutionaries. What's the matter?

    19. I would say Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were morally corrupt men given what they did when put into power. But it's like this: if we were to tear down statues of everyone who didn't conform to our moral order, then we'd have to pull down the statues of everyone who's ever existed except for Jesus Christ. "For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God."

      What do you mean by "wrong side of history"?

    20. I think we should not have statues celebrating evil people/people who were very morally corrupt. Everyone is sinful to a certain degree, but there's a difference between standard sinful people and (say) genocidal monsters like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. Statues are supposed to celebrate virtuous people and virtuous leaders.

      I mean quite simply being on the wrong side of history. Sometimes there is no wrong side, but sometimes there is - the Nazis were on the wrong side of history. The Communists were on the wrong side of history. It's a pretty intuitive concept and I don't feel like I should have to explain it. Sometimes the situation can be complex, but we can still judge individual occurrences - parts of the French Revolution were on the right side, and other parts were clearly on the wrong side (for instance the genocide in Vendée).

      Of course one might debate the right x wrong side for each case. But the concept is fairly clear, I think.

      I don't pass judgment on the American Civil War issue since I'd have to study it more, though I'm inclined to think the Confederacy was really on the wrong side - but perhaps with some atenuating factors. And even if Confederates were wrong, that doesn't mean all statues should be taken down - it should be a case by case issue, for instance Casual Thomist brought up James Longstreet who seemed to be pretty virtuous.

    21. Anon number Y
      " I hope Donald Trump takes such sentiments to heart"
      That hope presupposes Donald Trump has a heart.

    22. I do hope we all recognize that the s&*t hole countries" thing is disputed by Trump and others at the meeting (though some sort of "strong language" was likely used, perhaps s&*t house, whatever that was supposed to mean), and there almost certainly really are Mexican rapists who (probably illegally) cross the border. In fact, child sex traffickers (I know with the whole "Q" stuff this sounds conspiratorial; it is not. Just check actual organizations that help in stopping human trafficking) often cross the border.
      A nation has a right to defend itself, and while we also have an obligation to other countries (we are not self-sufficient in everything), the country cannot forget its obligation to its own people. Here we have to remember the balancing act of virtue and prudence.

      Not that Trump is perfect or anything, but it is a good idea to double-check the news about him and go to direct sources, as he has been taken out of context before and claims of varying credibility (whether it be hearsay or "anonymous sources" or disgruntled ex-employees). Probably a good idea for most news in general, especially if one is going to spread it.

  4. It's a good article, but I think the ending is slightly off. The real problems with immigration aren't economic at all, and it opens you up to unfair criticism to just reference the matter of, for example, poor people from one's own country having difficulty getting jobs because of the flow of cheap labour from other countries, whilst ignoring the matters of integration.

    1. What does it mean for an immigrant to "integrate"?

      Most people use the word as an anti-immigrant buzzword devoid of real meaning

    2. It is a perfectly normal use of "integrate": To find housing and jobs, to learn the language, to learn the laws and abide by them, to learn to accommodate different customs and learn to live according to them (mostly - the important ones, and to minimize friction regarding the lesser ones). To be a socially constructive force, in the long run, helping to continue the social networks and norms of a society to continue into the next generations.

    3. Right. The real problem is culture (though the economic problems are nothing to sneeze at). The fundamental problem with mass immigration is that you cannot import millions of people from different cultures without destroying your own. And it has nothing to do fundamentally about whether or not these foreign cultures are better or worse than ours. It is simply that they are different: maintaining a community's traditions, customs, habits, etc. - the embodiment of culture - and thus the identity and existence of the community itself, requires that these traditions be shared. Since traditions are by definition particularized, they cannot be maintained if large numbers of people from different cultures with their own traditions are imported into the community. Mass immigration accelerates the atomization of society that has occurred under liberalism.

    4. Agreed. Benedict XVI pointed out this problem in Caritas in Veritatis.

      And some of the liberals at the top know that mass immigration increases the pressure toward atomization, and seek that in order to undermine the Christian mores of our past culture. In this way, they use immigration as a club against Christianity itself.

  5. Problem with the argument here is that the analogy or connection between a family and a country seems contrived.
    My intuition is that a country isn't like a family, it consists of artificial boundaries and contracts all shaped by historical contingencies.

    1. I think Aquinas means something like "the people among whom you live" when he says country. He lived in the 1200s, when powerful families ruled many territories, and boundaries could change each time there was a marriage. Things were much more fluid.

    2. Maybe the modern nation-states are a bit like that sometimes, but one could argue that that's simply the result of countries getting too big. In Aquinas' thought, a nation is essentially like a massive extended family, made up of groups of groups of groups of families. America, being founded on an idea, is slightly different, but in the Old World, "nation" has always meant "group of people with a common identity based in common ancestry, our ancestors having all lived in this place for a very long time". Invaders and migrants can become part of these nations given enough time, especially if intermarriage takes place.

    3. John Lukacs used to emphasize that patriotism referred to the patria, or fatherland, not the empires or nations. That is, it was neither imperialism nor nationalism. The patria is your "valley" or your "'hood." Small enough to be embraced.

    4. I think the missing factor is authority. A people is formed from having a common authority that they all adhere to. Both the "nation of ideas" and "nation of blood and soil" are both wrong-headed Enlightenment claptrap because they assume authority comes from the bottom-up rather than the top-down.

    5. In the case of the ancient Hebrews, they were told to be loyal to their family, their clan, and their tribe, as well as to the entire Hebrew nation. The tribe was a pretty large affair, encompassing many towns and over a hundred thousand people. The Hebrew nation was twelve times as large.

      I believe that the Greek view of what constituted a "polity" as distinct from a tribe is this: a polity had a basis for a commonality of goods, i.e. a "common good" of the political order, but it no longer could identify a principle of ordinal relations between the people according to separate families (no principle saying X of Tribe A ought to rule over all OTHER tribes). Hence rulership was no longer a matter of tribal / familial relationship, and thence required a different principle. And Israel from David on had both national and tribal loyalties. The Hebrews were a great "nation".

      It is, therefore, possible to have one kind of loyalty and reverence to one's own tribe within the nation, and another kind to the nation as a whole. Neither is purely fictitious, neither exists solely "in the mind" as merely a being-of-reason. They are real, even though they are derivative of the human persons in which they subsist.

  6. As an analogy, Prof, would an excessive love of, say, family, include the classic Mafia-style protection of one's family even from just retribution for crimes? For instance, bribing a judge to let your son get off the hook for murder. Similarly, perhaps a comparable example of patriolatry would be covering up the crimes or bad parts of your national history, or claiming that it was okay because your people did it?

    1. He has used almost that exact example in the past when explaining how loyalty to the family could be excessive:

      It is virtuous, then, to have a special loyalty toward one’s family and to be a patriot, and to lack these habits of thought and action is, accordingly, vicious. But as with other virtues, there are in fact two corresponding vices here, one of excess and one of deficiency. The vice of excess is manifested in tribalism and nationalism. Consider, for example, the Mafioso whose allegiance to his clan is so excessive that he thinks crimes and other immoralities justifiable when they are done in the interests of his family.

  7. Dr. Feser, it seems unlikely Aquinas had modern nation-state in mind. If so, further argument is needed to apply his points to the present. What would that argument be?

    Thank you.

  8. I was born and raised in New Zealand and now living in Canada.

    Which country do I owe greater loyalty? The different quotes in this post seem to contradict. Prior to coming here, it seems that Canada should expect me to have a special commitment to Canada above other nations before letting me in, but yet that would be to betray my special commitments to New Zealand above others. It would then seem that no one could ever rightly move countries without failing in their duties or deceiving one or the other.

    That cant be right. So I wonder what I am missing?

    1. You bring up an interesting argument. I think that the important thing to remember is the existence of a hierarchy of goods and obligations. Obviously our allegiance to God and to our family outrank our allegiance to nation, and arguably one could say that if being in a certain nation or region is hindering one's ability to meet their natural ends (contemplation of God and discovery of Truth, first and foremost, but also natural goods such as health and continuation of the species) then one would have a justifiable reason for immigrating in search of better means to accomplish these ends.

      In short, I suppose it would depend on your intentions on Canada, reasons for leaving New Zealand, and their relationship to your other purposes. For example, a major fortune 500 company is centered in my home town, and very often its employees are transferred around the world with their families. Some of them, I imagine, end up finding compelling reasons to stay in the countries where they end up. Clearly the obligation to sustain ones' family to the best of ones' ability outweighs allegiance to the nation, so leaving is morally acceptable, while finding communities or even marrying and starting a new family overseas would provide additional bonds that would trump allegiance to one's mother country, and even, depending on the circumstances, allow transferal of loyalty to another. I give that as an example only to demonstrate that there are circumstances where transferal of that loyalty is moral.

      On the side of countries, its relatively simple as well. The duty of a country is to aid the families that make up its citizens in meeting their purposes to the best of its moral ability. If a country has need of skills that aren't readily available domestically, there is no contradiction in that country letting in foreign workers either temporarily or permanently. The real question comes when one asks at what point said country is allowed or obliged to extend full membership (citizenship) to resident aliens.

    2. I agree generally with what Casual said about there being a hierarchy of goods and loyalties. Aristotle / Thomas might disagree with whether loyalty to family simply outweighs that to the nation, since the higher good should be loved more, and the common good is higher than the family good (which is why we ask men to sacrifice their lives to protect the nation). But I think the real answer is it is in a way higher and in another way not.

      But more generally, one can for good reason leave behind one's nation and adopt another, as Ruth did in the Bible. In doing so, it is not necessary to say that the old nation was bad, only that the new offers something important enough to leave behind the old. This has an analogue in the family: "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife...": the good of starting a NEW family is just the kind of good that justifies leaving the old behind, and thus leaving behind the obedience owed to parents, and also in some measure the day-to-day support and care of them.

      I also think that whatever else the US has wrong with it, the American notion is right, that you can only have the kind of loyalty that is owed to your country, to ONE country, implying that you must give up your highest political allegiance to your former country if you are going to emigrate and become a citizen of a new country: you cannot owe the highest political allegiance to both. Hence the US does not recognize dual citizenship.

  9. What is the obligation towards a parent who terribly abused you as a child, and has spent later years half-heartedly attempting to make amends?

    I expect the answer is: "it's complicated." But it seems unfair to expect reverence for such a parent.

    1. Matt G,

      In terms of Dr. Feser's post, Aquinas wrote about indebtedness. I guess the abused child should always be grateful to the parent for giving him/her life. If there is nothing more for which the child to be indebted then so be it. Reconciliation and forgiveness are a different issue.

  10. We have an obligation to our parents, because we owe our existence to them: at the very least, they brought us into this world, clothed, fed and sheltered us, and raised us to adulthood. One could argue that this outweighs whatever wrong parents could do to their children. To quote a comedian, "I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out".

    From a Christian perspective, to overcome evil with good may not be "fair", but it is more excellent. Our parents are just as in need of forgiveness, the grace and love of God as we are.

    The actor Patric Stewart was abused by his father. Later in life he learned that his father had PTSD, resulting from his combat experience in WWII. His father was a victim who in turn victimized his own family. I think it is possible to reverence one's parent, sympathize with his/her suffering, without condoning his/her abusive behaviour.

  11. Mister Geocon, your comment, "In my opinion, this "distance" is an act of impiety. You owe the Founders of our country your loyalty for defending your country. And, if you're a Southerner, you owe the Confederate war heroes your loyalty for defending the South from Northern aggression. Your way of thinking (dividing America by religion such that people of one religious faith have no common authorities at all) is pretty tribalistic", misses the point.

    As Catholics, we don't have to tear down statues to the Founding Enlighteners or Confederate leaders, but we need to maintain our distance because of the false nature of their ideologies, which the Church has condemned. The dislike was mutual. Time doesn't alter this.

    What if you lived in Cromwell's Commonwealth, or the Soviet Union? Do you own the founding fathers of those regimes respect and loyalty? Patriotism simply cannot be used as an argument to revere false ideologies and their heroes, and join their "tribe".

    The bad luck of being born into countries which came into existence through the efforts of evil Enlightenment ideologies and virulently anti-Catholic "heroes" is not peculiar to the United States. It also plagues the Catholic countries of Mexico, and Central and South America. There is no way of moving beyond this problem until these whole period of "independence" and its evil and failed ideologies is reassessed in the light of Christianity. In the case of the United States, the split with England was really just a fight among Enlighteners, as was the American Civil War. Distance, distance, and more distance, is what any rational Catholic must be feeling towards all this. The most patriotic thing he can do in the U.S. is prepare to make it a truly Christian country. Pack the BLM back to preschool by all means but, not one tear over anti-Catholic Enlightenenrs toppled into the mud!

    1. So, would you say that the Know-Nothings were correct? That Catholics had no place in America because they were evil subversives that would let the country burn if they were given the chance?

      Also, how impressed do you think that rioting black criminals and anarchists with your "distancing"? I mean, to them, a white male is just a white male, whether he be a Catholic or a WASP.

    2. Of course Catholics have a place in the United States - they have to witness to their religion and make sure their participation in politics doesn't mean they simply join one of the Enlightener tribes - lose all but a Sunday morning presence, to become just another hyphenated identity: Catholic-American folklore, like Sioux-American, Black-American, Arcadian-American or whatever.

      Anarchists, like the founding Enlighteners Confederates, etc are not friends of the Catholics Church, and U.S. Blacks are culturally part and parcel of the dominant post-Protestant ascendancy. Probably, if I was a wasp or Anglo-White Catholic, I wouldn't have too much to fear from these mobs as they have been carefully kept out of middle class suburbs by and large. If I was a Hispanic Catholic in the U.S. on the other hand, I would have a lot to fear. The mobs largely targeted Hispanic businesses and neighborhoods. Demographically, Hispanic expansion has seen Protestant Blacks abandon many urban zones across the country. There's part of the future it would seem. Real politics from a Catholic point of view isn't Black or White or Left and Right - those antics go on inside the heads of Enlighteners. I said we need to keep psychological distance from Enlightenment ideologies and its heroes. That doesn't mean Catholics should do nothing, just remember who and what they are and act accordingly.

    3. I'm very sure that the racial activists who are tearing down the statues of Catholic Saints are very impressed with your reasoning.

      Remember, if you look like a WASP, to these people, that's enough to condemn you. You might not care about the enemies of WASP culture, but they care about you. Such is the nature of insane ideologies.

      First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a socialist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a trade unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    4. If anyone that looks like me is in the wrong place at the wrong time with these people it is nothing compared to the massacre that WASP and Enlightenment ideologies have perpetuated against Catholic culture and people over an age, and continue to this day.

      Fr. Serra and Columbus represent Catholic and Hispanic culture, not WASP culture. Trump's rhetoric against "shithole" Catholic countries in the Western Hemisphere and his wall delusions are the last gasp of WASP ascendancy. Don't get swept away in the angst of our adversaries. Work for a Christian future, not what remains of a disreputable past. We Catholics are not defined by what BLM or WASPs think.

      If you want to have any sort of Catholic influence in the U.S. the first need to distance yourself psychologically from all that is opposed to that influence. The intervention of Catholics in politics is not, cannot be, some tweaked version of WASP/Enlightener ideology. Before Catholics can have ANY influence, they must exist, by getting rid of the ideological baggage that dilutes them into nothing.

    5. While there was plenty of anti-Catholic sentiment present at the founding of the US, there was also a surprising amount of recognition of Catholic political thinking there. For example, the founders rejected the virulent Protestantism of Filmer and his defense of absolute monarchy. Madison had read and was (apparently) influenced by the political commentary of St. Robert Bellarmine. The US experiment in subsidiarity carried out in practice that Catholic teaching even before the Church formally recognized it as a doctrine. And, interestingly enough, some at least of the Founders, while Protestant, nevertheless were not particularly sympathetic to the most typical Enlightenment (that is, Endarkenment) theories of political order, (correctly) grasping that such were ant-Christian theories.

      As a result, it is not impossible to envision a future US that has learned to reject the Enlightenment and has turned to Catholic truth, but remains largely with the same governmental structure that we have now. The US may have been given birth through the services of midwives who were largely Endarkenment-taught, but the actual substance of the nation is not wrong to the point where the US polity must be annihilated in order for a Catholic nation to exist.

    6. Tony, Subsidiarity existed long before the Church was obliged to defend it expressly. No percentage of good aspects changes the ideology of the American Revolution (or its former masters in England at the time) from being Enligthener.

      It isn't necessary to overturn statues or proclaim the end of the American polity to have a Catholic country. But such a development CANNOT happen without the renunciation of the ideological falsehoods condemned by the Church. This abandonment of the false ideologies would be a true revolution. Smoke and noise is beside the point.

      Yet it seems harder than finding hens' teeth to get U.S. Catholics to renounce the Enlightenment heritage. Looks like it will be easier to get them to push statues over than make the necessary changes in their beliefs. The Church says there is no other way... It is not for us to decide to stay in our comfort zone by merely tweaking the Enlightenment.

      In case you're worrying that the only option is outlandish looking sectarianism, I would say that such sectarianism has been the attitude of the American political system towards the Church, as long as Catholics were clear on what they stood for.

      It may not be possible for Catholics to achieve all that should be, but they DO still have the freedom NOT to espouse falsehoods. They can still take part in American social and political life without doing this. But before they can exercise that freedom, they have to deal with these falsehoods, no matter how familiar they have become.

    7. Anon, you seem to have a pre-formed opinion that I am opposed to Catholic principles taking hold in America and Endarkenment principles being eradicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been, for example, urging the truths espoused by Pius IX in condemning Endarkenment theories, against Catholic theorists trying to shove Pius IX under the rug. Friends of mine have been defending and protecting, with their physical presence, statues of Fr. Serra from marxist vandals.

      But before they can exercise that freedom, they have to deal with these falsehoods, no matter how familiar they have become.

      I don't which specific falsehoods you have in mind here, other than the generic ones of the Endarkenment. It is true that Catholic schools need to get back to teaching Catholic doctrine (and not just in political theory, either). Doing so would indeed be a big change, though I don't know why it would be "revolutionary".

  12. Mister Geocon,

    For my money, you are one of the most interesting commenters here at Ed's place in a long time. While I don't agree with everything you have to say (e.g. I think the Founding and Catholic thought can be reconciled more easily than you suggests -- check out Robert Reilly's new book for a vigorous Catholic defense of the Founding.) I'm glad you has joined us.

    As soon as I started reading your comments about the Civil Rights movement, I thought of Christopher Caldwell...and a couple of comments later, you referenced the book! Here is a good review for those who are interested:

    I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole of race/ethnicity -- suffice to say that those who are not familiar with the subject should spend some time over at Steve Sailer's blog and learn and thing or two (and maybe read some good books on the subject by people like Wade and Reich.) Your position lines up with the best evidence we have and with common sense...always a good litmus test!

    Glad you joined us and keep ignoring the goofy trolls and stay classy!

    1. Jeffrey S.,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Robert Reilly's defense of the Founding is, in some ways, part of an admirable and virtuous tradition of American conservatives defending their country. I find it to be a very pious thing to defend one's fathers. But in cases where your father your has done wrong, it's important to acknowledge this. I'll read Robert Reilly's book, but to change my mind on the Founding of America, he'd have to adequately address the following facts:

      1) Mob violence and paramilitary armed gangs played a central role in American political history. Not just in the Revolution, but throughout the colonial period. This is covered in Murray Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty.

      2) He'd have to actually address the Tory arguments against the Revolution. People who write on this NEVER do this, so him actually doing this would be a very nice change of pace. At minimum, he'd need to address Thomas Hutchinson's Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia, a line-by-line refutation of the Declaration of Independence.

      3) He'd have to address the idea that the ideology behind the American Revolution was utterly deluded and the Revolution itself was based on a wacky conspiracy theory. This is covered in Bernard Bailyn's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.

      If he doesn't address these problems, then all of his ink might as well be for naught, as he will not have addressed the actual arguments in question. Whether or not the Founding Fathers were Jacobin-styled revolutionaries or crypto-Thomists is a non-sequitur. I judge men on their actions. And since the Founding Fathers were indisputably unscrupulous or deluded mob leaders, I can't help but judge their actions as evil.

  13. I see what Dr. Feser is saying, but I still can't wrap my mind around a few things. First of all, why is it ONLY the "national" boundary (which is defined arbitrarily) that counts? If it isn't, please feel free to correct me.

    Should someone who lives in northern Vermont, and travels frequently and interacts frequently with those in southern Quebec (before COVID, anyway) feel more natural affinity to those who live in Hawaii, who he has never met and never will, and will never face problems like plowing roads in the winter, or the tourist economy around Lake Champlain, merely because they share the same passport? Aren't "natural" boundaries in fact artificial, at least to some degree?

    Also, if political boundaries dictate obligations of loyalty and reverence, why doesn't this apply to lower or higher boundaries? Should one be loyal to his city, or his state? Does that fall under "patriotism"? If not, why not? Or, what about higher boundaries? During the Cold War, what would be a Westerner's duty towards NATO?

    Also, reverence for ancestors and the past is all well and good in its place, but 1) it must be based in reality (that is, having made our lives better in some way) and 2) it must not be pretended that that can substitute for solving our problems in the present. And just because somebody has done something politically, I maintain, does not entitle him to reverence. We rightly reverence the soldiers who died during WWII, whatever their personal sins may have been. But I will not say Thomas Jefferson is entitled to the same reverence. He in fact made lives a whole lot worse for a lot of people. You can argue all these points, and please do. But I'm not clear on all of this.

    1. 1) it must be based in reality (that is, having made our lives better in some way)

      Well, that criteria is met, generally, in the fact that the past generation is responsible for our very existence, so yes, they have made our lives better in some way. More to the point, every generation that left intact a relatively stable and relatively peaceable government is, by that fact alone, also responsible for a vast array of goods which we enjoy: the rule of law, the protection of private property, the intact family as a social unit, the existence of roads, schools, churches, farms, businesses, etc. The political order contributes to all of these, even if it is not the sole or primary cause of them.

    2. I see what Dr. Feser is saying, but I still can't wrap my mind around a few things. First of all, why is it ONLY the "national" boundary (which is defined arbitrarily) that counts?
      National boundaries are no more artificial than the concept of personal space and are approximately analogous to it by way of extension, with things like personal property (e.g. your home or house) being an intermediary.

      If you want to claim national boundaries are artificial then inevitably you're going to have a hard time coherently arguing to police that you were the victim of aggression when some right or left wing thug deliberate invades and violates your personal space in order to intimidate or impede you.

  14. On July 5th, 1852, Fredrick Douglas gave his famous speech in which he excoriated his prominent listeners for the nation’s practice of slavery. Toward the end, he stated:

    “In that instrument [the Constitution] I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing [slavery]; but interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.”

    Interesting . . . “glorious liberty document”.

    I wonder why he didn’t call for a Marxist revolution. I wonder why he didn’t start a CHAZ, or complain about microaggressions. I wonder why he didn’t demand everything be torn down.

    Maybe he wasn’t a sucka.

    1. Speaking of which, I'm wondering exactly what duties of loyalty a slave owes to his country, which is responsible for his condition of slavery. And, specifically, a slave in the South after secession? Does his loyalty belong to the Confederacy, which would have him continue in slavery, since that is his new "country"?

      I firmly hold (no matter what Aquinas, Feser, or anyone else might say) that when societies fail grievously in legal justice towards individuals, they can no longer claim in justice from those individuals what they would otherwise.

    2. Wonder no more! Fredrick Douglas himself told us: his loyalties were with the "glorious liberty document". That's what he says.

    3. OK, but what if the country does precisely the opposite of what the glorious liberty document says? I am in perfect agreement with Douglas's loyalty to the ideal. But what about the reality?

    4. You fight like he did and you eventually win like he did. Slavery has existed as long as humans have. The United States (via the "glorious liberty document") ended slavery. Thousands of whites fought and died to end slavery.

      Where is this sinless utopia you desire? Where are the sinless heros that are immune to cancelling?

    5. So you fight your own country. No argument there, but it is hard for me to see how this constitutes "loyalty", unless "country" is an abstract ideal, and not a concrete reality. And yes many whites did fight and die to end slavery, and I have no hesitation about giving THEM reverence. Robert E. Lee, who fought to PRESERVE slavery? Not a chance.

    6. TN
      We don't need to make heros out of human beings, all of whom are, of course, flawed.

      The title of the OP is
      "The virtue of patriotism "
      We see the famous photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. That celebrates the bravery of US soldiers as they did their patriotic duty in the face of an enemy that shot them down and blew them up by the thousands.

      Undoubtedly those men, and their leaders, had a great many sins of their own, not the least of which would be their own racism. Still, we honor them and venerate them with memorials for their service, under extreme duress and risk, to their country, The United States of America.

      Who is it that we do not honor with memorials on public soil? Those who took up arms and shot down US soldiers. Those who shot down US soldiers, irrespective of whatever personal acts of bravery they may have exhibited in battle, have no place on US public soil in memorials to their deeds.

      Imagine a man who graduated from West Point, wore the uniform of the US, but then took up arms to kill those in US uniform. What other term than traitor can be used for such a man?

      Traitors to the US have no rightful place in memorials venerating them on public US soil.

      The removal of such memorials is a great expression of the virtue of patriotism.

    7. @TN

      US didn't end slavery. Check 13th Amendment and modern day prison labour.

      Also stop trying to turn the narrative of the legal end of slavery into a narrative of the "heroic white men saving those poor, defenceless minorities". Black people played a huge role in their own emancipation and didn't passively wait for white saviours. They were fighting for their freedom since them time they were enslaved. Hell a huge reason why Lincoln officially ended slavery is because so many black people were freeing themselves.

      And please don't cite Frederick Douglass when you don't really understand his ideas and mindset. You can't even spell his name properly which is a sign you don't really care for him and using him as a mouthpiece to silence criticism of the racism present in the USA today.

    8. @ Letsgofishing,

      You say it’s hard for you to see how following the country’s founding document is loyalty to country. Well, there ya go.

    9. Speaking of which, I'm wondering exactly what duties of loyalty a slave owes to his country, which is responsible for his condition of slavery.

      St. Paul tells us about loyalty: See Titus 3:1: Remind them that they have a duty of submissive loyalty to governments and to those in authority, of readiness to undertake any kind of honourable service.

      And he didn't make an exception for slaves. He had very little to say about slaves, other than the fact that slaves, too, can be saved by conversion and baptism into the Christian religion. The fact of the matter is that since God's ultimate purpose is our eternal salvation, not our political success, He wills that we submit to all sorts of temporal conditions that are unjust, sometimes even unto death (such as the martyrs submitting to execution rather than rebelling). There are some conditions from which we SHOULD NOT submit, but the mere fact of injustice, even one as grave as unjust execution, doesn't automatically meet the criteria.

    10. Sorry, the question was rhetorical. The answer is "obviously none". Loyalty cannot be a one way street, with demands made for "loyalty" with nothing promised in return.

      The "authority" of the slaveowner is not true authority, but mere violence. So is the "authority" of the government which keeps him in slavery by violence. The slave has no duty whatsoever for submissive loyalty to that "authority".

      Submitting to injustice because one has no choice is not the same thing as loyalty to the perpetrators of it.

    11. The extent to which the slave does - or does not - have duties of obedience to the "master" is not the same thing as the extent to which the person has duties to the society of which he is a part. Even while a person is suffering injustice from other individuals (or from the state), he can still be a part of the society and have obligations toward it.

      So is the "authority" of the government which keeps him in slavery by violence. The slave has no duty whatsoever for submissive loyalty to that "authority".

      "Obey your master" is not the only thing the state commands toward the slave, and the relationship between the slave and master is not the only relationship the slave has toward the state and its society.

    12. I firmly hold (no matter what Aquinas, Feser, or anyone else might say) that when societies fail grievously in legal justice towards individuals, they can no longer claim in justice from those individuals what they would otherwise.
      You certainly have the right to believe that. And I agree, which is why I resist leftist aggression and injustice.

  15. In this classical view of patriotism, how should we see secession? To me, it looks pretty tirannical to force a group to stay in a nation they do not see themselves as part, like not letting a older son of yours live alone. It seems to me that if you need force to get the group together, them there is no real unity here.

    Is this right or does our duty to our country put in us a obligation to aways keep it exactly like it is now?

    I'am not speaking of a immoral State, just one where a group feels that they are not really a part, would it be okay to separate in this situation?

    1. Tamid, I would suggest that there are two main issues to address. First, under natural law theory, we have a positive duty to recognize and conform to the society into which we are born and raise. True, that duty is limited, (so there are valid reasons to, for example, emigrate), but you have to have REASONS, and it will be very rare indeed for such reason to be "I don't feel like it". If a state were to change away from how it had been before (in vast, encompassing ways), so that it changed while you stayed the same, that could represent something like a reason to separate, but in order to secede you would need a great many others like yourself that had stayed the way things were originally. And the changes would (arguably, at least) have to be in ways that bear on morals - i.e. the state becoming immoral in certain ways - or you might have some obligation to conform yourself to the changes as they occurred. It is hard to imagine the kind of vast encompassing changes that (a) did not imply the state becoming immoral, and yet (b) did not impinge upon you to conform yourself at least somewhat to the changes as they came along gradually, to create a situation where you found yourself at odds with the state in a sufficient way to justify separation.

      It is quite a different situation where one group never has been really part of the body of the nation, but was (for example) only ever ruled over by the dominant culture as over a foreign power. Then, of course, the subordinate culture is not really part of the same nation as the dominant one, merely controlled by them, and it isn't "secession" to depart, it would be rather more like re-establishing freedom from the dominant nation.

    2. I think this can be applied to the American scene in two instances: First, from the colonial settlement days, the European settlers were (in large part) driven out from Europe as unwanted "foreign influences" from the settled countries (Pilgrims, Quakers, Catholics), and then they proceeded to form a new society, from the forces of new environments, new social arrangements, new governing arrangements, etc. Although Britain had asserted claims, and then control starting in the late 1600s, such assertions were mainly papering over brute facts, which which substantiated that Americans were in fact a distinct society from Britain, however much culturally they borrowed from Britain. The Declaration mainly attests to the fact of the divergence.

      The situation was rather different in 1860 with the South. In 1787-9, the southern states had formally agreed to reject full and proper political separation from the other states, and instead entered into a de jure Union, because (a) the political benefits of such union were advantageous, and (b) because the REASON those benefits were advantageous is that on the whole the southern states had become ONE NATION with the rest of the states: de facto unity was the expressed with a de jure formal document accepting the union. For some time before the Constitution (and a while after), slavery had been going out of style in both the northern and middle states, and the Founders had some reason to think that this would continue, making the problem they could not resolve within the Constitutional Convention more tractable in a generation. With the invention of the cotton gin, the gradual progression of making slaves insufficiently productive reversed; and eventually slave states started making laws widening the difference between their culture and the rest of the US (such as, making it illegal to educate blacks). So, while there was some truth to a claim of a divide in culture between the South and North, it was also true that to some degree that divide was engineered intentionally, and it was not nearly so deeply entrenched as being beyond the memory of living men to recall otherwise. The South's claim to a right to secede on the basis of that divide was undermined both by their voluntary joining with the Union in 1789, and by their having made positive efforts to increase that divide themselves.

    3. @Tony

      The issue i have is when in the same nation you have groups of people with very diferent culture, views etc on a level that they do not identify themselves as the same people. Do we really have the same nation in this case? It seems to me that we have two peoples, not one.

      Do not think about the EUA example, think, for instance on the countries that where european colonies. The europeans just created back then artificial borders and unions that totally disrespected the diferences between the people who lived here. Is wrong for these people right to want to cease being part of a nation they feel is artificial?

      I mean, a nation on St. Thomas time was pretty closer and smaller that what we have right now, do not cultural bounds matter most on the end?

    4. Your question fits well within the context I described of a nation that was merely conquered and ruled over by a more dominant polity, and was culturally assimilated to that dominant polity. If the conquered nation remains culturally distinct, it has a valid claim to pursue seeking political independence, including "secession".

    5. Sorry, I meant to say was NEVER culturally assimilated.

    6. @Tony

      Oh, now i got it, thanks. My point was that what really makes a nation one nation was culture and all that, so if there is not cultural assimilation there is not one people, it seems we agree.

      Maybe "secession" was not the right world because it make us think about the American Civil War, that is probably a very diferent thing(i admit i don't know that much about it).

  16. A long time ago in the run up to the 2016 election I argued here that modern liberalism needed desperately to reflect on how it dealt with racial issues: I stated that at present it is locked in a kind of limbo trying to both affirm the reality of racism while denying race even exists. This is obviously untenable.

    I don't know how many times I have read Progressives argue that the white race simply does not exist. That there is no meaningful "whiteness." Almost to a man, however, these same people affirm that black lives matter and black Americans in particular are the victims of racism. Such pitched levels of total cognitive dissonance is simply unsustainable. No one in mainstream academia or media today would dare to claim that blacks don't exist, for example: that they aren't identifiable as a people group or that they can't or don't have at times a common interest.

    Anyone here right now can bing or google search for articles denying whiteness or the meaningfulness of speaking of a white race, for example. You will find articles published in prominent journals or even tweets making these claims by prominent individuals. But you wont find a single equivalent stating the same thing about blacks. This leaves us with two possibilities: either it is true that whites or whiteness is a fiction and, by the same token, so are blacks and blackness - in which case BLM should be branded a racist organization or at least a group promoting a meaningless artificial social construct or we have to acknowledge that whites and whiteness also exists and can likewise have a real common interest.

    Now I don't find any of this socially healthy. But there will be no reconciliation in truth and justice so long as we are locked inside of an impossible paradigm.

  17. Aquinas lived before the nation-state was a thing. The question then is: is the specific type of patriotism associated with the nation-state a virtue?