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The Storming of the U.S. Capitol Isn’t Patriotism

Donald Trump
Trump rally in 2020. Image: Gage Skidmore.

Four times I deployed into combat zones over my Army career. Twice more as a retired civilian have I ventured to Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to deepen my understanding of the sources of violence that undergirded those wars. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe I would live to see the day when the United States Capitol would be stormed by a wild mob, overpowering the police, disrupting both the House and Senate from performing a critical Constitutional duty.

This assault lays bare that it is time for some hard-core soul searching for both our political leaders as well as regular citizens. One of the most important topics to examine first should be to revisit what patriotism means.

When I joined the Army as a private, I did so out of what I considered a patriotic duty to do my part and serve the country. I swore an oath in August 1985 that I would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Pretty unremarkable and straight forward, I believed: the highest authority in our country was the U.S. Constitution, not a person, not a political party.

In contrast, when many say they are patriotic Americans these days, a troubling number peg the meaning of patriotism to allegiance to an individual or a political ideology. It was profoundly ironic, I believe, that when the rioters stormed into the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday, many were chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!”, oblivious to the fact that they were desecrating the very seat of government for that U.S.A., willing to take by force what the election had deprived their favored candidate.

United States Capitol Stormed

United States Capitol Stormed. Image: Creative Commons.

When we de-couple our patriotism and allegiance away from the Constitution and attach it to an individual or political party, we increase the danger that we unwittingly open a path through which an authoritarian may one day seize power. The assault on the Capitol also has implications for our national security.

Our powerful nuclear and conventional Armed Forces are sufficient to protect us from virtually any would-be aggressor. But that is not the primary source of the power of what it means to be an American. Our greatest source of strength is and always has come from the power of our ideals, even when imperfectly applied.

The greatness of America has derived from the inspiration of our spirit, like that embodied by the Statue of Liberty. Or like the sense of hope delivered by John F. Kennedy in a speech at American University in 1963 when he gave the United States and people around the world hope amidst the potential terrors of nuclear annihilation. America had, and would maintain a powerful national defense capability, Kennedy said, but offered both the United States and the world at large genuine hope when he said the United States “shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just.”

Ronald Reagan brought optimism and inspiration to a depressed America and served as a beacon of hope to millions around the world with his vision of America. Yes, we would achieve peace through strength, but our country, he often said, would represent a shining city on a hill “built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace – a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity…and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

But perhaps the greatest symbol of American hope was voiced by the man who eventually sacrificed his life in service to the nation was Martin Luther King, Jr. In his timeless “I Have a Dream” speech, King inspired millions – in the process raising the prestige and respect of how America was viewed around the world – when he dreamt of the day “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

For decades now America has been shedding, bit by bit, our moral standing and defense of the ideals of the Constitution and increasingly elevating our reliance on our military muscle and elevating the power of personality. This shocking assault on the U.S. Capitol Building is in part a consequence of this drift from our core strengths.  As bad as it was, however, it can serve as a useful tool to wake us up so that we realize we are heading in the wrong direction – and motivate us to make necessary changes.

Or we will fail to recognize the source of our problems, continue to blame everyone but ourselves, and risk suffering even darker seasons in the days to come.

Daniel L. Davis is a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” The views in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the opinions of any organization. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.



  1. Clarence Spangle

    January 8, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    We can’t afford health care for white American children because we need to be bombing somebody else’s for the love of Jesus and Israel…

    “I have been just as furious as you at the compilation of lies which the communist and Semitic elements of our government have leveled against me and practically every other commander. In my opinion it is a deliberate attempt to alienate the soldier vote from the commanders, because the communists know that soldiers are not communistic, and they fear what eleven million votes (of veterans) would do.”—George Patton

  2. Clarence Spangle

    January 8, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    And you believe in free speech about as much as the Taliban does.

  3. Ira Laudwig

    January 8, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Go to hell, you deep state liar!
    We know the Election was stolen.

  4. Forrest Lindsey

    January 8, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Oh, horsehockey. The protesters who entered our Capitol were almost entirely patriotic Americans who were exercising the rights under the Constitution. They didn’t go there to burn or spray paint or to commit acts of violence. They went to the People’s House to protest the false votes being ratified by their representatives in a sham ceremony.

    If they hadn’t stood up for their rights, who will? Certainly not men like you, who see the Capitol building as a sacred shrine or an armory or the like. The government is supposed to our government: of the people, by the people, for the people – not some set of rule-bound petty dictators who steal our votes from us.

    I fought for this country – actually fought, not just “deployed to a combat zone” and have the Purple Heart to prove it. I suffered for our country for our freedom. What did you fight for?

    • Michael Kuhns

      January 11, 2021 at 9:20 am

      Where is the evidence the election was stolen?

      Judges (appointed by Ds and Rs) threw out the claims.

      Responsible politicians (Mitch, Lindsay, Pence) have seen the “evidence” and called it what it is – total 100% bulls hit

      Get over it TRUMP LOST. Be a patriot not a partisan.

  5. Mike Danger

    January 8, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    So you are ok with voter fraud? Sorry to hear…

  6. Zivbnd

    January 9, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    This wasn’t about patriotism as much as it was about despair. The vast majority of the people that stormed the Capital did so because they believed the deep state had ignored them for decades. And they were right about that. The patriots did not win but they did leave a mark that can not be ignored.

  7. Night Eagle

    January 11, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Neoliberal capitalism and Freemasonic abstractions aren’t a recipe for a lasting or stable nation. America is surely the most delusional society in history–a fake nation barely held together by dollar bills, lawyers and prisons, a mad empire that thought it was the exception to history, but history is burying it, like every other empire before it.

  8. Carroll Heyward

    January 11, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Dan, thank you for your thoughts, I find comfort in them.
    We do need to accept responsibility for who we are and who we want to be.

  9. Arlen Nosler

    January 12, 2021 at 8:14 am

    If they are adults and take responsibility for their actions, is this any different from civil disobedience? A Congress that exercises powers not granted to them by the constitution is nothing but a criminal gang occupying that house.

  10. PopSeal

    January 15, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Is there a point in a nation’s history where the normal, legal processes are powerless against corruptions perpetrated against the people? When a nation’s cultural fabric unravels to the point of chaos, a point of “no return” may have been reached.

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