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Every presidential election cycle seems at some point to be a contest of "I-Am-More-Patriotic-Than-Thou.” Each candidate claims a higher degree of fidelity to the nation’s ideals, zeal for Americanism, and patriotic holiness.

In one sense, this is to be expected, and it is a phenomenon the world over. Politicians in nearly every country proclaim their patriotic commitment to the fatherland. Perhaps if that is as far as it goes there is nothing inherently wrong with this. In fact, one could argue that there is a lot right with this because it helps to reinforce the nation, which is to say the people’s identity and community.

In another sense this rush to patriotic holiness can be threatening. For one, politicians and people, if not also pundits, too easily wrap the Bible, or whatever holy book they affirm, in the nation’s flag. Religion and politics get confused one with the other, a particular danger for religion and an unhealthy situation for politics.

But religion, and I would say especially Christianity, should stand above and apart from politics. Why? Because in doing so Christian values and principles can be brought to bear in critical review of politics. Religion in general and Christianity specifically provide a moral standard against which politics may be evaluated and one would hope corrected and improved.

Another danger of patriotic holiness is that it gives the politician a heightened and ill-advised sense of personal rightness and righteousness. Politicians tend to believe their own press and tend to think they have a corner not only on the best policy positions but the only, and holy, ones. This attitude leads to hubris for the politician. And it dampens debate.

Patriotic holiness is mostly about posturing and parade. It’s not so much about philosophic presentation or prescient pronouncements. It’s a malady that afflicts the election process and certainly one we’d all be better off without.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

No country can live long and prosper without a sense of itself. Without a defined national identity and, better yet, national character. No country grows or moves forward in a positive way without aspiration, ambition, goals. America once possessed all these things. Now, I’m not so sure.

I’ve written earlier blogs and articles on “American Ambition Asked And Answered.” I’m concerned about what my grandchildren will not find.

I don’t cast this concern or any arguments I make in simply political terms, Right or Left, but in terms of patriotism. I care about and appreciate my country, so I must speak.

We are now in the midst of a presidential election campaign. It’s mostly noise. Look at me. I’m more-Conservative-than-thou. I’m hip and cool so what more do you need? Not much depth here. Not much moral courage, bold ideas, or statesmen or women with backbone to match their character…or is that the other way around?

I’m looking for, listening for, leaders—whatever race or ethnicity, whatever gender, whatever religion—who speak of a future toward which we can and must work together to make it a bright future. I’m listening for truly selfless, humble, nonpartisan expressions of optimism and creativity. I’m wondering if such leaders any longer exist, because I’m wondering if our culture is strong enough to any longer produce them.

America needs to define itself once again. Who are we? What really is an American?

France is in the midst of a presidential election campaign as well. The combination of high immigration and low French birthrates have resulted, for the first time in the modern nation-state, in less than 50% of the population being born in France. What does it mean, they now want to know, to be French? We don’t know what it means to be American.

Being American is more than being born here, though that could be involved. Being American is more than speaking English, though that is involved. Being American is understanding and embracing a set of ideals and an outlook on life and the future.

I’m hoping we’ve simply misplaced our understanding of what it means to be an American, rather than lost it forever. Once we find it we’ll be able to recast an American aspiration for a bright and hopeful future.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Ambition is often misunderstood. But its absence is, eventually, noticeable and negative.

Whither Ambition

Along the way I’ve heard a sermon or two castigate the idea of ambition. I think the well-meaning speakers equated ambition with selfishness, selfish ambition, or a grab for personal aggrandizement. They took one generally listed meaning of ambition, “a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous,” and rejected the word because they looked upon success, power, and fame pejoratively. For the speakers, success, power, and fame are suspect at best, so a person with ambition for these things must already have started on the broad road to destruction.

So…”Thou shalt not be ambitious.” It sounds good so it must be in the Scripture somewhere. But the thing is, while God provided plenty of examples of how success, power, and fame can warp human perspective, he never said, “Don’t be successful, powerful, or famous.”

And God certainly never said, “Don’t be ambitious.” In fact, the Apostle Paul said it had always been his ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, and later, Paul advised believers to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Only “selfish ambition” is condemnedrepeatedly—in Scripture.

Meanwhile, ambition is generally defined as “something a person wants to do or achieve” or as “a desire to do things and be active.” It’s a forward-looking attitude imbued with hope. Ambition is similar to aspiration: an aim, a goal or objective, a strong desire. Ambition is a longing to accomplish something small or great but either way, meaningful.

American Ambition Asked

I submit to you that American culture has lost its ambition. We don’t have a sense of Manifest Destiny, we’re not saving the union, we’ve already built a transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal, we’ve not set out to make the world safe for democracy, we’re not working, if painfully, to achieve MLK, Jr.’s “Dream,” we’re not trying to put a person on the moon, and terrorism or global warming or debt reduction notwithstanding, we’re not now mutually engaged in any kind of national purpose.

America, and too many Americans, have lost any sense of ambition, don’t know why, don’t know how to rediscover it, and don’t even know if they want to find it. Political leaders are not much help. They’re focused on re-election, picayune details, hyper-partisanship, and each other. And we’re not hearing much of a grand ambition (vision for accomplishing something) from academia, celebrities, or even religious leaders.

I don’t say this so much with criticism as concern. This is my country. I’d wish better for it.

Individual Americans, of course, can be found who are exceptions to this rule. Surely there are a few ambitious visionaries out there. We just lost one: Steve Jobs. Not that his personal life was much of a model, but his ambition for greatness in his profession was a stellar example.

Meanwhile, pundits are talking about terminal adolescence, boomerang kids, Millennials without life goals, the working class with a growing sense of alienation, and the middle class confused and angered by its lack of prospects for a better future. And worse, there is the so-called underclass (I do not mean this word disrespectfully) whose lives seem adrift and hopeless without some help from the rest of us.

American Ambition Answered

What America needs is not a good 5-cent cigar but a new American ambition, and what a lot of individual Americans need is a forward-thinking, hopeful, goal for their own growth and contribution to family and society—they need ambition.

We don’t lack for ideas:

*The United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speed. We’re way behind Asian countries that have made this a national priority. Focusing upon becoming Number One in the world in Internet speed would benefit education and the economy, which is to say everyone. 

*The U.S. is ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics. These numbers are embarrassing, yet we continue to claim we have the best universities in the world. To regain academic performance among the nation’s youth is to regain economic prominence tomorrow. It’s not rocket science—or maybe it is.

*Even debt reduction could be a positive American Ambition if presented as something more than “Woe is me, we can’t do this anymore.” Cut yes, but to what end besides no debt? Don't just retrench, reposition. Build for the future.

I could identify other kernels of ideas capable of growing into a national ambition. But the purpose of this piece is not to list every possibility, rather to raise the issue.

Ambition isn’t bad. If governed by time-tested character values ambition is decidedly good.

Reconstructing an American Ambition capable of blessing the world should be itself a national priority. What is our destiny? Find it, go for it, do it. Inspire us to Aspire.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The most recent U.S. flag desecration amendment failed to pass in the United States Senate by one vote. It’s the fifth time such a measure has failed in the Senate since 1990. The House of Representatives has approved an amendment seven times in that period.

The Senate's 66-34 vote did not strictly follow partisan lines with Republicans “for” and Democrats “against,” but it was close. Only 14 Democrats voted for the amendment while 3 Republicans voted against it. But this issue is about much more than partisanship.

Flag desecration is an emotional issue because it is by definition a patriotic one. People tend to measure one another’s patriotism based upon how he or she views flag desecration laws. It’s a game of “More patriotic than thou.”

On the one hand, “desecration” is difficult to define. If the amendment passed, would I have to give up my U.S. flag golf club headcover? Is my headcover desecration or, as I intend, is it a patriotic expression? If the amendment passed would we need to rid our house of flag stickers, flag colored jewelry, flag decorated clothing? Or is this not desecration but more patriotism? If burning a flag is desecration, than why are we instructed to burn flags when the material wears out?

On the other hand, while “desecration” may be difficult to define, everyone knows it when we see it. A person burning a flag in violent protest of the American nation or its policies is certainly recognizably different from a person burning a flag to dispose of it.

Still, one could argue that one person’s desecration is another person’s patriotic expression, however reprehensible some of us may find this idea or its enactment. People burn or otherwise destroy U.S. flags (and other flags) because they want to say something. They may be patriotic, just differently so.

I recognize that people who oppose flag desecration laws or amendments may be as patriotic as I am. They’re not opposed to such laws because they want to desecrate the flag. They oppose such laws because they want to protect freedom of expression and because they don’t know how these laws will be enforced in practice. I agree with their concern for how the law is written. The law must be clear so that enforcement can be reasonably applied. What we don’t want is a flag version of Prohibition, something that turns out to necessitate an embarrassing repeal.

Still, with all that, I favor flag desecration laws as long as they are properly written, though I’m not sure a constitutional amendment is necessary. Congressmen have proposed a constitutional amendment because the United States Supreme Court in recent years has struck down several state laws against flag desecration. In response some 50 states have approved non-binding resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment.

I do not think flag desecration laws, if properly focused, are a violation of freedom of speech. The Stars and Stripes, when presented as a flag, is a symbol of American ideals. In this way it is a monument no different from any other public depiction of our values. It therefore could or should be protected from harm just like the Statue of Liberty or the monuments in Washington, D.C. I see no inconsistency in this.

Protecting the flag is a way of vesting it with even greater symbolism. It’s important. When Red, White, and Blue material is arranged with stars and stripes, it’s not just a piece of material anymore. It’s us. It’s what we believe, and it’s what people have died to protect. So protecting this one symbolic presentation does not seem unreasonable to me.

I’m not arguing that the United States flag is a sacred object, nor am I suggesting that flag desecration laws mean that American policy should be beyond question or protest. I’m simply saying that there are many ways to express disagreement and even protest and protecting the U.S. flag doesn’t really limit this expression. The U.S. flag is unique and therefore should be treated uniquely.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

“The Star Spangled Banner” is now available in a Spanish-language version. This development has incited a barrage of negative conservative reaction, along with positive response from many in the Hispanic community as well as others who think such a version is overdue.

I don’t know anything about the musical quality of the piece, nor am I a Spanish-speaking person. I am, though, generally considered a conservative and in that role I can’t quite get my arms around why other conservatives are making this a new front in the culture wars. Their reactions sound more parochial than patriotic.

It does not bother me to think that Spanish speaking Americans can learn the words of the National Anthem in their original language or that they may sing it from time to time in their native tongue.

On the other hand, I agree with those who reject planned inclusion of “pro-immigrant” political statements in a future remix version of the song. Such posturing is more about disunity than unity and has no place in a long established patriotic anthem.

And, while it does not bother me that a Spanish-language version of “The Star Spangled Banner” exists, I do not think public expressions of the National Anthem at ball games, special ceremonies, military events, etc. should be conducted in anything but English. The United States is an English speaking country, and should not be ashamed or apologetic about it. This is a fact important to our history, our economic well-being, and our melting pot culture.

We may be a “Nation of Immigrants,” but in the end, the U.S. is and must be a “Nation.” English is a key component of this unified nation state, and the National Anthem is an artistic and emotional expression of the ideals we hold dear as a people, not “peoples.” Offering an Anthem Du Jour is not a recipe for strength and stability. Affirming an English language National Anthem is not a rejection of English as a second language Americans. Actually, it’s just the opposite.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at