Something about patriotism causes it to intensify as its object is weakened. We remember Washington freezing at Valley Forge, and then the bold, perhaps even reckless crossing of the Delaware, more warmly than we remember the steady, calculated siege at Yorktown. The infant Republic is somehow more lovely when she appears very nearly snuffed out, than she is years later, with the thrill of victory gathering.
Or again, why do we remember the great rescues of Christendom, the relief of Vienna by the Poles, the astonishing endurance of the Knights of Malta on their own September 11th, more readily than the sure victories?
Why are even Northern men stirred by the perseverance of Lee's army before Appomattox Courthouse, and even Southern men by the magnanimity of Grant at its end?
I think it is because patriotism partakes of the tragic character of life. The patriot is that rare romantic who will love even pitiful remnants of broken nations. The patriot is indeed moved by his country's victory, but not as much as he is moved by her subjugation.
If Christ can weep over Jerusalem in the knowledge that defeat and ruin were near, surely we, in these dark days, can allow our eyes well up at the lonely and harried symbol Old Glory, waving still over the land of the free and the home of the brave.