Friday, June 22, 2007

A Question of Patriotism

Recently over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, I got involved in an exchange of comments with one of their new regualrs, an admitted Liberal calling herself Psychochick. A bit naive, but more open-minded than the average Liberal. I did not want to hijack other peoples’ posts, so I eventually suggested that some discussions should be carried on “elsewhere”, and emails were exchanged. Today, one of her comments provoked me to some serious reflection. So I dedicate this post to Psychochick for the inspiration, and give her a “tip of the helmet”.

In that message earleir today she expressed her satisfaction that I had stated that I did not question other peoples’ patriotism. How she had gotten the idea that I would not do such a thing is beyond me. Of course I question others’ patriotism; it many cases it seems relevant, and the answer is sometimes self-evidently negative. But she set me thinking along a number of related lines.

First, I cannot help but observe that whenever we express a difference with the Demoncrats and other Liberals about the war their first response is an outraged “How dare you question my patriotism?!” Even if it is their military strategic judgement which has been attacked. To me this defensiveness about their patriotism, suggests something of a guilty conscience. They know it’s the point on which they are weak, and should not be, and feel a need to justify themselves. They must not be questioned. And yet, whenever a Conservative or other Republican opposes a Liberal measure, the first response is never a defense of the measure itself, but rather an attack on the good faith of the Conservative challenger. Depending on the issue, racism may be invoked. Or some strange desire to make the planet uninhabitable. And always compassion. “Shame! Have you no compassion?”

I almost never hear a Conservative respond “How dare you question my compassion?!” Perhaps became Conservatives know that on their scale of values they hold compassion in a somewhat lower order of priority, and believe that workable solutions are far more relevant than who has the most compassion. Is compassion really the quality you want most in an EMT responder? When Little Precious has hurt herself, do you really want an EMT who dashes over and goes all weepy-feely on her ass, or one who coldly and efficiently sets to work practicing his medical skills to save Little Precious for another day? Or when a pipe bursts in your home, spilling nastiness throughout the basement, do you want a prissy plumber, concerned with his own purity, or do you want the basest Bluto on the block, one who delights in swamping through shit to patch the pipe and contain the crap? And if you get a hint of “the plumber’s smile”, it’s a small indignity. So to all my Liberal friends, and not-friends, I say, when you demonstrate that you have abandoned your ad hominem attacks, I will endorse suspending our ad feminam attacks. But you guys have been doing it a lot longer, and more obtrusively than we.

But I think that there are many Liberals who do not have much use for patriotism, even though they do not appreciate being called on it. These people come in a number of flavors. Many are the sentimentalists, the people who are not particularly deep thinkers, who have just absorbed the idea that internationalism and globalism are good, and if we had a world government there would be no more war or human suffering. These are the people who like to carry those tote bags given out by PBS stations as pledge week tokens, the ones which proclaim the toter a “World Citizen” and feature the UN emblem. “Oh my! what a good person am I!” Sorry, but if you’re loyal to a global loyalty, you implicitly abandon your lower order, national loyalty. Just as swearing loyalty to the United States means swapping out any real loyalty to my individual state in favor of a sentimental fondness for my birthplace. Sorry, loyalty is exclusivist in its nature, or it is not loyalty after all. Of course many of these toters, particularly the kids (can I call them toter tots?) have not really thought things through, and might make a different choice if forced to confront a situation.

They are led by the more ideologically aware. One Worldism has always been an integral part of the socialist idea in all its manifestations, various favors of revolutionary and non-revolutionary Marxism, Fourierian, Prudhonian, etc, etc. It seems to be an article of faith of them all that in their glorious socialist future, nations will vanish and merge, the main difference being whether global peaceful anarchy will reign or some form of global world government. Right now the global governancers seem to predominate. But the proles will not understand so for the moment they need to be deceived for their own good. - “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way.” I think these people are dead wrong, but at least they can be taken seriously, or at least could be were they to agree to drop the deceptions and engage in honest debate. So these people are what I would call principled, if disguised anti-patriots.

Finally, there is a third group, often overlapping with the second. These are the people who are anti-patriots not from some ideological issue so much as from a personal deep-seated animus against the United States. Typical of this group might be people such as Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore. Jesse Jackson, and a number of the other anti-war protesters who feel they have suffered personal losses, or been treated with insufficient reverence at the hands of the United States. And then those who hate America because it has never conformed to their abstract ideological visions of what they think America ought to have been.

This last group causes me personal conflicts, and invokes issues which strain the bounds of my own loyalty. As our culture is continually degraded and replaced, and hordes of immigrants, legal and illegal alike who share with me no common interests or culture flood our land, as I, and others who served are treated with indifference at best, I become increasingly alienated from the country at large. If we are to be nothing more than a boarding house for economic work units, why should I give a damn? This is why I became a Veteran-American. But alienation, regretful alienation, is a far cry from active hostility. And even at that, I cannot shake myself of my pride in country, even if I do not call myself a patriot. The average Liberal seems to show no such angst, no real ambivalence. If they do declare a love for country, it is always for some hypothetical idealized America, that never has been, and never will be. As such their patriotism, seems to me mostly a sham intended for political camouflage.

Back in Eighteenth Century London, Samuel Johnson is famously quoted as saying “patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.” (emphasis added). Were he living today, he would append that remark with the conclusion “…but the scoundrel’s first resort is compassion or envy.”

It is a shame. Loyalty to one’s homeland seems one of our species deepest impulses, even though the object of focus has changed over time from cave and clan to country and people. Some Nations focus on a flag, others on a sovereign ruler; in either case, it is land and people which are truly represented, not an economic balance sheet or abstract theory. In many cases patriotism has led to the excesses of chauvinism and unnecessary wars. But then every positive emotion has been misused. Love leads to jealousy murders and rapes. And the ideological wars and repressions of the Twentieth Century have led to probably over a hundred million deaths.

On my first trip to Russia, in 1994, I visited the great Stalingrad memorial in Volgograd, the Statue representing Mother Russia. Our local guide gave us a short speech about the three tallest monuments in the world, Mother Russia, Statue of Liberty, and Christ in Rio de Janeiro, which she said symbolized to her the three most important things, patriotism, freedom, and God….”In my opinion, every man should be a patriot for his own country.” This is the formula which has me respect the honest patriots of other countries, including enemy lands, alongside our own.

I love my mother, but that does not mean that I must despise your mother, nor force you to join me in my estimation that “my mother is the best mother in the world”. If you feel the same way, and I hope you do, it is no disrespect to my mom. God help the poor SOB who cannot love his mother. For me one of the most awesome things I have learned from Russia’s history is the tragic example of those millions of Russians who stepped forward to defend their motherland in 1941, even though millions of them secretly hated Stalin and the Communist Party for the crimes of Collectivization and the Purges. Many of them actually plucked from the GULag to be sent to the front. And yet, and yet…they went and sacrificed themselves yet again, not for a belief but for an undeserving people and a land. And yes, if that time were to come to us, I, and may other Veteran-Americans would rally to support the struggle. But in the interim, it sure is painful and confusing.


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