Our Opinion: Patriotism defies easy measurement


In time for July 4, the Wallet-Hub website has ranked the 50 states from most patriotic to least. The list may set off fireworks.

Massachusetts ranked 45th in patriotism, which will have all those who see the state as riddled with whiney liberals nodding their heads in agreement. Vermont, however, ranks 12th even though it has a presumably unpatriotic socialist senator and Democratic presidential candidate. The list compiled by the personal-finance website is based on a variety of parameters, some a little simplistic.

The five states (all of them red states) that have the highest percentage of residents who are enlisted in the military get high marks for patriotism — Massachusetts ranks 47th. Without challenging the patriotism of any enlistee, the website doesn't take into consideration that many men and women enlist in the military in large part for economic reasons. Recession-driven job losses in those high enlistment states undoubtedly influenced many decisions.

Similarly, states with the highest number of veterans per capita win high marks for patriotism. This doesn't take into account the many elderly veterans who left their chilly home states to take up residence in warmer climates.

We agree with Wallet-Hub that volunteering is a good way to measure patriotism because donating your time and energy to help your community, state and nation is a purely selfless gesture. This is where Vermont shines, with its first-place finish in the number of Peace Corps and AmeriCorps veterans per capita largely accounting for its 12th place finish overall.

Voting is also a good definition of patriotism, and Minnesota finished first in this category based on the 2012 presidential election. Wallet-Hub combines volunteering and voting rates per capita to create a "civic engagement" rank, and here Vermont finished 3rd and Massachusetts 13th.

For the most part, however, patriotism cannot be readily quantified. On the surface, support of the U.S. when it is at war would seem to personify patriotism, but not all wars are the same. Was support of the U.S. wars in Vietnam and Iraq, two disasters built on lies that cost America blood, treasure and international prestige, patriotic, or was opposition to those wars the truer definition of patriotism?

While no ranking of patriotism can be definitive, the Wallet-Hub survey makes for good reading. We urge readers to vote, volunteer, support the troops, honor veterans and have a great July 4.


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