L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 197, November 4, 2002
Three Cheers for Patriotism
Special to TLE
When we Americans talk about patriotism or being patriotic, what are we saying about ourselves?
A dictionary definition of patriotism reads: 'Love and devotion to one's country'.
Are we referring to the physical, tangible, land we live on, comprised of the fifty states and perhaps the territories? Are we talking about the citizens of the nation, the 'Land of the free'?
Are we speaking of the system of government, that great experiment in self rule that became a beacon and a model for so many the world over? What are we in love with and devoted to?
Or are we just cheering for our team as high school kids do during a pep rally, chanting slogans and waving banners, singing fight songs and expressing superiority without any significant justification while declaring that we will crush the other side? Are we celebrating our liberty or gloating and displaying our incomparable power like a pro wrestler?
Certainly, there are plenty of good and noble reasons to declare love and devotion to the United States of America, but are we considering those just now or are we merely following the cheerleaders?
Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that most americans tend towards the sports-fan model of patriotism and that we are a nation of ignorant hooligans. Over half of americans in one recent survey disapproved of excerpts from the Constitution, many mistakenly identifying them as from a communist document. Most americans can't identify more than one of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and many, not even one.
Clearly then, most people are not patriotic because of a love or devotion for the foundation of our government. Recently, the separation of powers and the vital checks and balances of our government have been significantly altered or ignored. The Vice President refuses to release documents central to the development of our nation's energy policy, the public's policy, citing an unjustified executive priveledge. The government has become disproportionately representative of corporations and the economic elite resulting in the interests of the top 2-5% of taxpayers being considered over those of the modern day equivalent of Jefferson's 'gentleman farmer'. The fourth amendment has been practically scratched out under the self- satiricly dubbed 'Patriot Act'.
Bookstores, libraries, and the internet are under intrusive surveillance. Intrusive in that they don't target anyone in particular but anyone who purchases , checks out, or accesses certain materials. American citizens have suffered months of detention without essential due process or evidence that they were involved in any crime or conspiracy other than ethnicity, name or religion. The erosion of the constitution is occurring with haste and in far reaching ways after the unspeakably abhorant tragedy of September, 2001. Since then, the events have been used as a distracting cover for abuses of power, authority and embarrassing scandals among the chief operating executives of our top corporations and our government. Partisan redistricting in Utah and discriminatory election procedures in Florida are symptomatic of the perversions of the american values espoused in school books and during Fourth of July celebrations. Many people who point out these deviations from our founding fathers' vision are labeled as unpatriotic.
The patriotism shown by the majority does not appear to be for the country of America, that is, the land, the earth that is the body of our Country. Our land is under accelerated assault by people calling themselves conservative. The amount of toxic materials allowed in the surroundings and water we all use is of little concern to the ruling party in America. They've increased it. Corporate use of federal lands at the expense of the average taxpayer is going up. Sometimes this form of welfare is excused as being for the national security.
A stated core argument and motivation of the Republicans in this midterm election is to dominate the legislative branch so that this administration has less opposition in pursuing it's agenda. The current play-book for the party cynically instructs candidates to adopt some of the language, if not the issues of the democrats with the primary purpose of manipulating the discussion and dominate government. Crush the opposition, this is the Art of Political War. A war against Americans. Doesn't having control of all three branches of government concentrated under a single party sound more like a totalitarian state than it seems 'American'? What is more in line with your patriotic values, dialog and debate, or litmus tests and rubber stamp lawmaking? The ugly transformation of our government and our landscape is not going fast enough, so it seems.
Here is to everyone performing their patriotic duty and casting their vote this election with careful, informed, and reasoned consideration. Otherwise, what is left of patriotism in America but flag waving and shallow fanaticism?