Patriots – Convenient & Otherwise

Can Boiling Frogs Become Patriots?

In September 2005, David Rose wrote an article in Vanity Fair about Sibel Edmonds, the founder of this website.  The article was titled “An Inconvenient Patriot.”

Well, let’s step back for a minute.  What is a “patriot?”  How does “patriotism” help illuminate the mission of Boiling Frogs Post?  

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the closest thing you can find to a definitive source on the English language.  The OED includes four main related definitions for the noun “patriot” when the word is applied to a person.  They don’t all mean the same thing, and some senses don’t inspire a lot of respect. 

The first definition described for “patriot” reads:

A person who loves his or her country, especially one who is ready to support its freedoms and rights and to defend it against enemies and detractors.

 That’s not so bad, but here’s the second: 

A person who claims to be disinterestedly or self-sacrificingly devoted to his or her country, but whose actions or intentions are considered to be detrimental or hypocritical; a false or feigned patriot.

 Yuck, who wants to be one of those?  Here’s the third definition:

A person actively opposing enemy forces occupying his or her country; a member of a resistance movement, a freedom fighter.

This one gets the wheels spinning a bit, for instance, in light of the oaths sworn to by new enlistees and officers of the Armed Forces of the United States.  These oaths include pledges “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” (It is interesting to compare and contrast the two oaths linked above, one for enlisted personnel and the other for officers, how each of those includes (or not) “the President” in the oath, and how that relates to the topic at hand.)

And while considering this third definition, do “we” currently have opposing enemy forces occupying “our” country?  Well, first, “we” have to define who “we” are.  Boiling Frogs has a number of contributors, including important work by James Corbett, a Canadian.

Hmm, let’s postpone that one for now.  Here is the fourth definition for “patriot” from the OED:

An opponent of presumed intervention by federal government in the affairs of individuals, esp. with respect to gun and tax laws.

These four definitions are related, in that they deal with the relation between a person and his or her country.  But there is a second sense in which the OED defines the word “patriot,” and it relates to when the term is used more generally, in extended fashion, to include:

A lover, devotee, or supporter of a particular place, cause, ideal, etc.; a champion.

My favorite example for a quote the OED provides in this sense comes from the year 1645, where in something called “God’s Sabbath,” someone named H.L’Estrange said:

The Truth which it professeth will gain it some measure of acceptance with so Profest a Patriot of Truth.

In other words, a person is called a “patriot” frequently as a relationship with country.  There are times, however, when patriots are in relation to other things, including ideals like Truth.

Patriotism Quotes for Boiling Frogs

Here are some illuminating ways in which public figures have defined or used the word “patriot.”  Some of these writers use the word in a positive sense, while others shine cautionary light on the potential downside.

For trivia buffs looking for a challenge, we don’t identify the authors explicitly.  Who do you think made each statement?  The quote link will take you to biographical information about the person quoted, and their photos are included below the quote:

"True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else."


“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”


“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”


“Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.”


“The highest form of patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plain.”


“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing.  But why should love stop at the border?”


“The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him.  Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born.”


Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.


Do you have any other quotes about patriotism and what it means?  Is Boiling Frogs Post a “patriotic” endeavor?  Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

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Bill Bergman has 10 years of experience as a stock market analyst sandwiched around 13 years as an economist and financial markets policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He earned an M.B.A. as well as an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago in 1990. Mr. Bergman is currently working with Social Movement Sciences LLC, a new enterprise developing evaluation and funding services for not-for-profit organizations.

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