"America! Fuck, Yeah!"

Monday, March 1, 2010
I ask a lot of questions. I question our government on a fairly regular basis. As part of my liberal philosophy, I routinely wonder what the best course of action is for our government, for our citizens, for our world. I consider such questioning to be part of my patriotic duty - a responsibility to not take too much on authority. Sort of the "loyal opposition," if you will.

Not everyone feels that way, though.

I was recently taken to task in a round-about way by someone who evidently felt that my propensity to ask questions of and about our government's use of the Armed Forces was unpatriotic in some way. They implied that if the great and wonderful GWB had just "rolled over," then we'd all be "worshiping ALLAH" and that if such sentiments as "GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA STILL HOME OF THE FREE" offended me I could basically go fuck myself. Except he used a lot more capital letters and a lot more exclamation points, I guess because nothing says "literate and well-informed patriot" like excessive use of capital letters and exclamation points. My response to the chucklehead was basically, "after 17 years of service, I have earned the right to ask any question I want, so feel free to STFU, now" but that's not really how I feel. I just knew that for people who worship at the alter of "America! Fuck, Yeah!" patriotism, my military service is the final word, and I didn't want to argue about it on someone else's forum.

So here's the thing. Asking questions, and demanding answers, of a representative form of government is the act of a patriot. Allowing people in power to simply do as they wish without challenge, following blindly, is the not the act of a patriot, and in my opinion, compromises the effectiveness of our government and sets us up for the advent of various forms of authoritarianism. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, questioning the status quo, and demanding accountability from government is a good thing and leads to a more transparent construct. And you don't have to "earn" the right to ask those questions and demand that accountability, in spite of the spanking I gave to the chucklehead. The simple fact that you're a citizen gives you all the authority you need to demand answers and accountability within the bounds of good sense and the law.*

I find "America! Fuck, yeah!" patriotism to be the point of view of the thoughtless. It implies that any action taken by the United States government is the correct action, simply because it was taken by the United States government. The alternate universe of Dick Chaney aside, I don't happen to think the torture of prisoners in the custody of our government is a correct action, no matter what Eric Holder finally determines. Doing the work of determining if my government is doing the right thing, and then acting on those findings, is my responsibility as a citizen. And because it's my responsibility, that makes me morally responsible for the actions of my government, at least in part. Pointing the finger at Clinton, or GWB and his insane clown posse, or at the current president and saying, "They did it. It's not my responsibility," doesn't wash, because the elephant in the room is why we, as a collective citizenry, let "them" get away with it.

Rabid nationalism does not lead to better forms of government, better societies, or better foreign relations. It simply gives manipulative, cynical people a huge handle to use in getting the population to go where they want. Yeah. Good luck with that.


*Yes, Birthers and Teabaggers, I am looking at you.

14 comments:

Darren said...

Thank you. Really -- thank you.

As Sydney Harris said:
"The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war."

Patriots hold dear the values of their country, and so will question and challenge its leaders (and its people) to ensure that the country continues to uphold those values.

Thank you for reminding people of that - coming from a veteran, it's a powerful message.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

Thank you.

Janiece said...

Welcome, Darren.

You and the Mechanicky Gal (who is also a veteran) are both welcome, although I'm not sure I said anything new or earth-shattering. The thesis that the rabid nationalists are thoughtless goofballs with no sense of proportion isn't exactly a stunning conclusion. :-)

vince said...

Rabid nationalism does not lead to better forms of government, better societies, or better foreign relations. It simply gives manipulative, cynical people a huge handle to use in getting the population to go where they want.

I know, I lose the Internet this way, but the classic case of what rabid nationalism in the people lead to is Nazi Germany. Manipulation by Nazi leaders became much easier when nobody did question, and later questioning became illegal and deadly.

As philosopher and poet George Santayana noted years ago, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Janiece said...

Vince, in this case I think you're excused from Godwin's Law, since the parallels are just too huge to ignore.

On a related note, I just realized I'm a dirty, uppity elitist, because I put a comma after "Fuck" in my description of this phenomena. EVERYONE KNOWS there's no comma. It should be "America! Fuck yeah!"

I'm such a snob.

Vagabond said...

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” Charles De Gaulle

As a firm believer in the maxim, "Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it", I'd like to point the "America: F&*$ Yeah" crowd to the history of Europe from the end of the dark ages through the end of the 20th century. Once feudalism became a relic of the past and political power was increasingly gathered in the hands of central governments, nationalism was the firebrand of choice for leaders who sought to gain or retain power. Hatred was inflamed, xenophobia was spread and intellect, goodwill, compromise and liberty were ground under the heel of marching armies. The result was a continent that became an armed camp and four centuries of warfare, poverty and disease on an increasingly vast scale, culminating in the butchery of the Second World War and it's aftermath. It is estimated that 60 million lives were lost during that conflict alone, with tens of millions more killed in the purges, pogroms and genocides that followed.

Einstein said, “Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race.” My take would be a bit more severe. I think a more apt comparison would be to call it the Plague of the human race. Hatred and ignorance only lead to places no rational person wants to go. Long live the dissenters and those questing souls who seek knowledge and compromise. Good one Janiece!

mom in northern said...

Some of "those folks" should read up on their American History...as I recall our founding fathers had some rather ruff debates...

neurondoc said...

I find "America! Fuck, yeah!" patriotism to be the point of view of the thoughtless. It implies that any action taken by the United States government is the correct action, simply because it was taken by the United States government.

This has not excatly been my experience. People with this type of attitude (with whom I have come into contact) seem to think that asking questions of Republican government's use of the military is not okay, but questioning Obama's policies is the right thing to do.

It is that attitude that makes me insane.

And I wasn't allowed to serve in the military due to my disability. So I guess that means I can't question anything about our country. Humph.

Janiece said...

neurondoc, I find that to be true, as well, but since I come from a liberal bias, I do try to allow for the possibility that my memory is skewed against the Republicans.

And even if it was necessary to "serve" in order to question our government, you'd still qualify. But it's not, so I'd suggest the 'tards who think so receive a good whack with your cane.

neurondoc said...

Janiece, I wanted to serve, but even docs have to pass certain physical tests. I (obviously) couldn't, but I still think that the military should employ some method in which those who are not physically able can serve in some capacity.

Steve Buchheit said...

Before I was a councilman I would usually respond to the idiots by saying, "I've done my bit for king and country." In fact, I used to say that when people would try and get me involved in the day to day working of politics. And then one day I didn't step back fast enough and found myself volunteered.

These days I take great joy in looking at people (in person or over these here internets) who like to say, "All politicians are corrupt" and "you can't trust the government to do anything right" (who just a few short years ago were the "We shouldn't question anything the government does because they're the government") that they should be careful who they're speaking to, and what have they done to correct the problem? Then I challenge them to get involved. Then the blubbering starts and the whole, "I don't have time" etc. The rare few talk about how it's all hopeless anyway. Those final few I love looking at and saying, "America, love it or leave it. Time to pack your bags." The smirk on my face while I say it probably gives away my true sentiments.

Juan Federico said...

Janiece! Fuck, Yeah!

Janiece said...

neurondoc, I was trying to say that I think your current gig qualifies as "service," even though your physical limitations prevented you from joining the Medical Corps. There are lots of ways to serve that aren't military, and I think you and Eric are good examples of that.

nzforme said...

There are people with the "America! Fuck Yeah!" attitude whom I regard as sheep -- folks who are riled up into "Fuck Yeah!"ness by others. I'm more disappointed in the sheep than angry at them. I'm angry at the people who are leading the sheep -- the folks who damn well know there's a lot more to patriotism than flag-waving, but who sell others on the idea of flag-waving because it suits their own purposes.