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Patriotism continues to slide in America. Gallup's annual Fourth of July survey of national pride finds only 45 percent of Americans are "extremely proud" of their country, the lowest point since the measure began after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Back then, 70 percent of Americans considered themselves highly patriotic.

The erosion troubles Michigan's champion of patriotism, Oakland Circuit Judge Michael Warren, the founder of Patriot Week and an evangelist of America's founding First Principles.

Warren traces the fall-off in love of country to an education system that places more emphasis on America's faults than its virtues.

"Over the past couple of decades, there has been a real reluctance to trumpet the great success our country has achieved over the 234 years it has existed," Warren says. "There is an almost compelling desire to point out all of our faults — and we have many.

"Look at textbooks from 100 years ago — there was no shame or guilt. They didn’t point out the flaws in our dealings with indigenous people, with slavery. Read those texts and you would not say America is an awful place."

The sugar coating was dishonest, Warren says, but the over-correction is a disservice to the nation's young citizens, who aren't being schooled in the unique set of rights and responsibilities that come with being Americans.

"Today, it's unfashionable to teach American Exceptionalism," he says. "The academy has fully embraced relativism and multi-culturalism — our culture is no better than, say, Chinese culture or Saudi Arabian culture.

"You don’t get a sense that America is a unique place in the world. But we were founded on these First Principles of inalienable rights that no other country has."

American patriotism must be more than just a love of place. 

"You can't just love the mountains and the prairies," Warren says. "You've got to love the ideological foundation. America is more an inspiration, an idea, as opposed to a place.

"There are patriots in Greece, and Sudan, and Japan. But American patriotism is unique because we have this founding document that lays out what we believe. If you believe in that, you’re a patriot."

Warren fought — and lost — to keep Michigan's new social studies standards focused on the foundational values of America. But the version that passed doesn't even mention the name James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, and dwells on the Founders' shortcomings — many were slave owners — at the expense of celebrating the tremendous experiment they launched.

"Because the Founders were flawed men, the tendency is to dismiss the work," Warren says, "to go back in history and throw out everything they did. But all men fall short. That doesn't make their work illegitimate."

Patriotism is essential to sustaining the nation as it was founded.

"Our freedoms and liberties are dependent upon a well-informed citizenry willing to defend them at all cost," Warren says. "If you simply love the country, it doesn’t matter to you what laws are passed, and what freedoms are eroded.

"If we don’t love the principles, we’re just one bad election away from losing them."

nfinley@detroitnews.com 

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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