Daily Archives: January 22, 2012

The Devil’s Dictionary: Patriot and Patriotism

Every now and then, it is good to revisit a classic, or even a curiosity from the past. The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce was originally published in newspaper installments from 1881 until 1906. You might be surprised how current many of the entries are.

For example, in this political campaign year, here is a definition for the words Patriot and Patriotism. The Old definitions are Bierce’s. The New definition is mine. From time to time, just as it was originally published, we will come back to The Devil’s Dictionary, for a look at it then and how it applies today. Click on Devil’s Dictionary in the tags below to bring up the other entries.

Patriot, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that is it the first.

Updated definition: has anything changed since these definitions were first published? I think you could add to Patriot: The dupe of statesmen, the tool of conquerors, and the straw man of politicians. Anyone who does not agree with a politician’s stance for saving America is not a patriot (or even worse, a liberal).

It should also go without saying that scoundrel is a synonym for politician, and patriotism is often the first refuge of the politician, particularly when he (or she) doesn’t want to discuss something embarrassing or damaging, such as facts.

One also need remember this that an “-ism” as in patriotism is short for Ideology Stuck (in the) Mind. It has ceased to be a living idea and has become a petrified facsimile (or petrifac) of the real thing.

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