Dissent is the Highest Form of
We seem to live in a bumper sticker society. People don’t take time for serious reading anymore. If it doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, it’s meaningless. At least that’s the impression I get from time to time.
While some bumper stickers can be entertaining, others are incomprehensible, and others are just dumb, such as the one I saw recently. It read, "Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism." You hardly know where to start with such an inanity.
Let’s begin with the idea that "dissent" is patriotic. My fourth edition, American Heritage College Dictionary defines a "patriot" as, "One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country." It defines "patriotism" as, "Love of and devotion to one’s country." Those are pretty straightforward definitions and it would be more than a little contortional to fit "dissent" into a definition of being patriotic.
Dissent is dissent, it’s not patriotic. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but it has absolutely nothing to do with patriotism. And, in fact, in some cases dissent is clearly unpatriotic if it involves burning the American flag or otherwise expressing your hatred for America.
As for the phrase, "highest form of patriotism," one hardly knows whether to laugh or cry. Higher than Nathan Hale giving his life for his country? Higher than the sacrifices of our founders? Higher than men (and women) who have died defending our country in battle? Higher than those who put their lives on the line each day to make it possible for others to dissent?
Give me a break. Dissent is dissent. Patriotism is patriotism, whether it’s that certain feeling you get when they play the national anthem, or when you visit American shrines like Valley Forge, or when an honor guard carries the American flag in a parade. Patriotism is about love, and dissent is about anger.