Defining patriotism during these confusing times

Susan K. Smith.2 1
Susan K. Smith


Crazy Faith Ministries


I remember a conversation I overheard between three White women when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the United States presidency.

They at first bemoaned what then-President Obama had done to the country, in their opinion. The sentence I remember most was, “You know he’s not an American and what he’s done is bad. This country will never be the same.”

They continued to talk loudly enough, it seemed, for me to hear. As they praised Trump, they exclaimed, “He so patriotic!”

At that time, I hadn’t experienced Trump as president, but what he had offered at that time didn’t seem particularly patriotic to me. Yes, he talked about America being “first,” but I didn’t know what that meant to him.

I do now, and I still hear people exclaiming that he is “patriotic.” And so I am confused. I am as confused about that as I am about White people who are clearly racist saying they are not, and also saying that the president is not.

The definition of patriotism, according to one dictionary I sought out, is “devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” I then looked up “nationalism,” which is defined as “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.”

I guess technically, then, Trump is patriotic – or better yet, he is a nationalist. We hear him say “America first,” but we also see him giving honor and respect to nations that clearly are not friends of this nation, while openly and publicly expressing distrust of the American governmental institutions, spewing his disdain for those institutions to dictators who clearly have an interest in seeing America fall.

I have personally cringed as I have watched and listened to this man give respect and honor to dictators. The “love letter” he says was sent to him by Kim Jong Un, as noted by The Hill, and his talk with Vladimir Putin in the White House behind closed doors with no interpreters present, as reported by CNBC, have been troubling.

It seems that he has talked privately with Vladimir Putin at least 16 times since being president and his siding with Putin at the Helsinki summit in 2018 was beyond words, as reported by The Washington Post and

In his rallies, he fires up his supporters saying “America first!” but in truth, it seems that he is giving foreign and hostile countries access to the privilege of being in a relationship with what used to be the model of democracy. Flawed as it was, America’s democracy was the ideal that countries looked up to and imitated.

But now, foreign countries are confused, according to The New York Times. What is this new America under this president? The world is reeling today after the news of this president impulsively pulling American troops out of Syria, as reported by

Kim Jong Un, the apparent writer of the “love letter” to Trump, no longer wants to talk with the president – and he is still firing missiles, something that the president says his relationship with the North Korean dictator all but ended, The Washington Post reported.

The trade war with China has had a devastating effect on America’s farmers – and while he criticizes China for being unfair to America, he asked China to help investigate U.S. presidential hopeful Vice President Joe Biden, and his daughter Ivanka continues an apparently very lucrative business relationship with a country Trump has labeled as a menacing opponent of American interests, noted News Week and

Trump has alienated America’s allies and agitated America’s enemies. This nation feels less safe now than it has since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And in spite of all of that, his followers say he is patriotic. But to me, what he has done and is doing is anti-American. He has put the entire nation in peril, all the while crying out, “America first!” Trump’s daughter sent a nice thank you note to Turkey’s dictator, Newsweek revealed.

None of what he is doing seems patriotic to me, just like a racist who oozes racist ideas and practices saying he is not a racist seems nonracist, or anti-racist to me.

At the end of the day, I guess my civics lessons were wrong. That’s the only conclusion I can come up with, watching his administration and its supporters wave the American flag while continually pouring poison into America’s core – which was already problematic, true, but which has never been under this kind of attack from the commander-in-chief.

If Trump’s goal was to create a real-life reality show, he has succeeded, but the very country he says he loves is in more danger of being overtaken by its enemies than it has ever been before.


Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Contact her at Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available for preorder through Barnes and Noble at or through Amazon at


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