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Discussion: What does it mean to be a progressive patriot?

June 30, 2014 By John Van Hecke, Publisher

Three days from now, Minnesota will kick back, celebrating Independence Day. From a policy perspective, we’ve spent the last two years righting many policy wrongs. The economy is growing, school funding is up, MNsure enrollment surpassed expectations, and the Green Line LRT opened to 100,000-plus first weekend riders.

We have much to celebrate. We also have much yet to do.

Reversing Minnesota’s conservative policy turn makes us, we believe, progressive patriots.

What does progressive patriot mean to you? What is the patriot’s responsibility and obligation to protect communities?

This discsussion is open all day. In addition, retired Metropolitan State University Professor Tom O’Connell will join us from 8-9:30 am, as he reflects on these questions, poses more and listens to you.


Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use "refresh" to see new comments.

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  • Rachel says:

    July 1, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Welcome! I will moderating comments today. Tom will be joining us at 8. Before then, please take a minute to share some of your thoughts on patriotism and the progressive movement.

  • Tom O'Connell says:

    July 1, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Good morning, Patriots!  But wait-what is a patriot anyway?  On one level, it is simply a person who loves his or her country.  Love is a feeling, a sentiment.  But it is revealed in action.  I still get goose bumps when some body mentions the Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms or I am someplace where they are singing old labor songs.  Mention the “New Deal” or Minnesota’s fiery governor, Floyd Olson and my knees shake.  This year’s commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation make me feel proud of America.
    But how does my action get expressed in action?  What do we do to show love of country?  How do we serve the nation or state or local community?  My guess is that folks who read and contribute to 2020, will have many answers to this question.  So I say, claim the word PATRIOT and don’t even bother to put an adjective next to it.

    • Ed says:

      July 1, 2014 at 8:28 am

      I think when all is said and done, a patriot is one who understands the relationship between personal responsibility and social responsibility. I recall Barbara Lee—the only person in either the House or Senate who voted against authorizing the use of force legislation that did indeed lead to the Iraq war. She saw her personal responsibility, which for so many other members of congress was to protect their careers, as voting in our national interests.

      • Tom OConnell says:

        July 1, 2014 at 8:48 am

        Good point, Ed.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone agreed on that relationship between personal and social responsibility is?  Barbara Lee understood that love of country some times requires challenging folks who think patriotism equals military action.  I am thinking now of the Nonviolent PeaceForce started by Mel Duncan (among others) here in St. Paul.  The group sends carefully trained peace keepers into conflict regions to help opposing groups sort their issues with each other without using force.  Seems to me we ought to consider these folks to be patriots of the highest order.

  • Brian Barnes says:

    July 1, 2014 at 9:20 am


    I agree to a degree, but I believe a “patriot” to be someone who CHOOSES the good of the country over their personal responsibility and well being. Where I think it gets interesting is the difference in association based on political ideology specifically with regards to guns and the Second Amendment.

    • Thomas O'Connell says:

      July 1, 2014 at 9:33 am

      I agree—Patriotic feelings are like the first flash of romance.  What is most important are the actions we choose.  I do think on matters of disagreement in the big country of ours it is important (and some times hard) to acknowledge that no one has a patent on patriotism or the truth.  We can differ on guns, religion, abortion and role of government without having to claim the one side or another are the real patriots. Not that I live up to that high ideal!

    • ed says:

      July 1, 2014 at 9:51 am

      I chose Barbara Lee because I thought her political actions represented an integration of her self interests and well being with doing the right thing, and were not done in spite of her interests. I strive to be like her in seeing and expressing my self interests honestly, and understanding them in as enlightened a way as possible. It is a struggle for us all to live so that our self interests are tied to the interests of a well ordered society. I think this is what motivates the best of polititians, and the rest of us.

  • Sally Jo Sorensen says:

    July 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I’ve started thinking of myself as a Bee Party Patriot, concerned with the relationships between individuals, enterprise, agriculture, community and the nation.  It’s not as silly snarky as a it sounds at first read. The catalogue copy for Tammy Horn’s new social history “Bees In America: How the Honey Bee Shaped A Nation” notes: “Colonists imagined their own endeavors in terms of bees’ hallmark traits of industry and thrift and the image of the busy and growing hive soon shaped American ideals about work, family, community, and leisure. The image of the hive continued to be popular in the eighteenth century, symbolizing a society working together for the common good . . .”

    Well, I could go for that.  And yet the honey bee, an introduced if beloved species, isn’t native to North America, and thus serves as a reminder of the cruel legacy of another kind of colonization.

    • ed says:

      July 1, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Bee Party sounds fine to me too. I have a quote I like from Reinhold Niebuhr, for its philosophy, not religion, of that kind of community you are talking about:
      Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

  • Joe says:

    July 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    A Progressive Patriot stands up and organizes to correct community/society injustices. Progressive patriots’ weapons are clipboards (or I-pads), protest signs, contact lists to enlist and recruit other would-be patriots, and most important, accurate information about the issue. Our allies are progressives in state legislatures, labor leaders, community/faith leaders. We stand up to the injustices of unchecked corporate power on behalf of our communities, children and workers.

    To pull from the Strib commentary last Sunday, my 4th of July honorees are Sister Mary Scullion, Patrick Shanahan, and Mary Catherine Rickert.

    • Tom O'Connell says:

      July 1, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Joe, I saw that STRIB commentary and its list of heroes and the three you mentioned reminded me that our communities are full of progressive patriots.  Sally Joe, thanks for your discussion of Bee’s.  I didn’t know how important the metaphor was for the colonists.  Makes sense.  The one scary thing is that the bumble bee is becoming an endangered species.  Let’s make sure that both the metaphor and the creature lives on—while remembering the cruel legacy of colonialism you mention at the end.
      Which brings me to a thought I once had of flying two flags outside my house.  The Stars and Stripes and the United Nations flag—my way of asserting the relationship between being a citizen of the U.S. and in a small way, a citizen of the world.

  • Donald D. Schultz says:

    July 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

    A Progressive Patriot:

    For a run-of-the-mill patriot patriotism is finished and fixed.  It’s standing for certain values ensconced in old documents and histories and traditions that are sometimes living.  This patriot stands for liberty as set long ago; for equality within bounds strictly defined; for community restricted and bounded by individualism which has priority.  For a Progressive Patriot, on the other hand, the values of the Fatherland are forever growing and expanding.  Liberty is dying when it is not reaching out to more people in richer ways; equality is bondage when it is limited to mere opportunity; and individual worth is only discovered within community.

    Have a great 4th, my fellow Minnesotans!