IN reply to a correspondent from Iowa, who writes us that many people object to the SENTINEL’S opposition to the flag salute on the ground that it would stifle patriotism, we take occasion to say a word more on the salute in its relation to patriotism.
The only salute we have specifically noticed is that used at Boulder, Col., which required the pupil to make a profession of allegiance to God. It was on this ground mainly that the SENTINEL opposed it.
The flag salute is used in many other States; and so far as we know, in no other does it contain any reference to God. Without this it is of course much less objectionable. But there are some principles which apply to these salutes in general, by which we think their character for good or evil must be determined. It is our aim to touch upon these in this article.
In the first place, we think there is ample evidence that, in most cases, the flag salute is designed rather to foster militarism than patriotism. That the spirit of militarism is creeping into the public schools, cannot be denied. The “Boys’ Brigades” which are now so much “in evidence,” marching through the streets equipped with all the accouterments of war, demonstrate this. The spirit that glorifies war is the spirit of militarism.
But militarism is not patriotism. Militarism means despotism, patriotism—in this country at least—stands for the opposite of despotism. Militarism is the curse of Europe. And if it is ever set up here, it will be the curse of America. We do not want it, and no true patriot will encourage it.
And in the second place, there is no evidence that the flag salute is an incentive to patriotism. The salute is but a form, and you cannot get the spirit out of the form. A person can go to church, and sing, and pray, and talk; but this will not give him piety. These forms are but the means by which his religious fervor finds expression. In themselves they are useless. And just so as regards patriotism. If the individual has patriotism, saluting the flag may be a suitable means of expressing it. But unless he already has it, the salute is meaningless, like any other mere form. Patriotism is a spirit, and not a form.
We do not believe any person can be truly patriotic without being upright, honest, courageous,—in short, endowed with the virtues of manliness. Any person endowed with these virtues will be patriotic naturally. And we do not believe the country wants any “patriots” of a different stamp.
The burden of proof is upon those who have introduced the flag salute, to show that it is an agency of good and properly belongs where they have put it.
The SENTINEL does not stand along in opposition to this innovation. Whether it has the approval of the press generally or not, we do not know. But we do know that in at least one instance the secular press has condemned it. On this point we quote the words of the New York Journal, of January 24, with reference to the salute proposed for the schools of this State, which is as unobjectionable as any that we have seen. After stating the salute in detail, the Journal says:—
“This seems to be another example—they are already innumerable—of the unfortunate tendency of well meaning persons to mistake flag idolatry for patriotism. It were better to teach frankly to the boy that the flag is now what his fathers made it, and will be what he and his fellows make it; that it waved over slavery until his fathers purged it of that stain; that it waves now over political corruption, judicial injustice, and industrial distress, and will continue to spread its folds over these evils unless he and his fellows with stout hearts, pure minds, and honest purpose toil in their youth and in their age to sweep away the abominations which have grown up under our flag as under others.
“There is a wide difference between flag patriotism and true patriotism. The latter includes reverence for the flag; the former is apt to include nothing else.”