Donald Trump

What Trump (and Obama) Got Wrong About Loyalty and Patriotism

Trump said "through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other." That's exactly backward.



In his inaugural address today, Donald Trump drew a connection between loyalty and patriotism, claiming that loyalty to country leads to individual virtue.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.

In his first inaugural in 2009, Barack Obama also tied the two concepts together:

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

When you set aside Obama's customary poetry and Trump's habitual bluntness, both men are circling around the same idea: that loyalty to the state will lead Americans on a path to personal goodness. That working together toward a common goal of national greatness is the way to self-betterment. They're far from alone in this view; hell, flirtation with the causal relationship between being a good man and a good citizen goes all the way back to Plato.

But for a refreshing contrast to this state-centered view of life in the-not-too-distant past, take a gander at the inaugural remarks of George H.W. Bush, who was unable to attend today due to illness:

We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, and town better than he found it….No President, no government, can teach us to remember what is best in what we are.