Yes, yes, it may be unquestionably the greatest movie of all time overall, but while very patriotic there are still, I think, 8 films ahead of it. But even if it isn’t the most patriotic film ever it is still very patriotic. Especially in a very broad sense.
Rick: Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean what you’re fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It’ll be out of its misery.
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.
In the broad sense it suggests that patriotism is an attitude that everyone should have. Patriotism is often the only thing that stands between a nation and tyranny. Be it that those in Unoccupied France fighting to end tyranny were the only real patriots (and their numbers were far lower than has since been claimed) and those in the German underground were the only true German patriots (none seen in this film, but the German underground was actually larger than the French, who, as a nation, were a little too eager in welcoming their Nazi masters and far to eager to hand over ever Jew they could find). Any true patriotism isn’t a desire for your country to be the most powerful, it’s a love of country for the good it does and the good it is capable of…loving your nation for anything else is a violation of basic ethics and morals. It’s just easier to love America when you’re an American than it is to love other nations when you’re a citizen of those nations…it’s a side effect of being founded on the ideal of liberty rather than the land we live on/conquered or the race we come from. America’s just better that way. Must easier to love such a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, which is why you would want to come here…or the nearest substitute, even if it’s only the Café Américain.
(the French have no right to have a song this powerful for a nation as pathetic as theirs…)
But this is a list of American patriotism in film. And as our resident American, Richard Blaine shows all the flaws and virtues
of the nation. Like America at the time he selfishly and foolishly wanted to be left alone, even though he clearly knew at one point what was right and wrong (fought for the loyalists in Spain, fought against the fascists in Ethiopia, earned a position on the Nazi black list). He shows that peculiar American sense of charity without thanks for a young couple. And of course by the end we understand what needs to be done and that evil needs to be fought. And by the end we love Rick, because once he gets over his cynicism he represents all that is good in America. And of course he points out to the Nazi’s the inevitable idiocy of trying to take on America
Major Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It’s not particularly my beloved Paris.
Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me!
Captain Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.
Another reason to love America—no one is ever going to take this nation by force.
And finally there is the fact that this film deals with how the rest of the world feels about America. There are some who recognize America’s virtues and like it, and at the far end of this spectrum they come here. There are those who just want what we have but disdain our culture and laws and either demand what we have in the form of foreign aid or come here in violation of our laws without taking a moment to realize the prosperity of this nation is because of our laws and our culture of individualism and reason and that you can’t have one without the other. And finally the extension of this second group is those who despise America and see us as nothing but a bunch of pompous, arrogant, classless, rubes…or as it is said in the film.
Major Strasser: You give him credit for too much cleverness. My impression was that he’s just another blundering American.
Captain Renault: We mustn’t underestimate “American blundering”. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.
It should be noted that not only do we blundering Americans have a history of taking out tyrants from George III to
Saddam…but that it was the blundering American who ended Major Strasser’s life. For some reason the world, and the American left, constantly underestimates the strength of character that America provides, always to their own downfall. Our blundering, as they put it, is our determination in the face of unbeatable odd, our optimism in ourselves and the virtue of humanity, and our courage when others would turn back. It may appear to be illogical blundering to those who don’t get it, but to us it the way to Happiness and success. And historically the results show we’re right.
“Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”