The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
Patriotism vs. Nationalism
I like to consider myself a patriotic citizen. I think I have a firm grasp on the foundations and ideals of the country in which I live, with a solid sense of the history of the nation and what the purpose of our country is supposed to be. And I also just happen to be a conservative Republican who supports military action in Iraq, thinks that France completely betrayed one of its most loyal allies, and approves much of what President Bush has been doing since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Of course, according to some people, I'm not patriotic. I'm a jingoistic, overzealous nationalist who thinks that the United States should just take over the world and slurp up all the resources so Bush's buddies in the oil and drug businesses can reap the rewards. In fact, there are people out there who think that by being conservative, I'm undermining the true potential of the United States and want to destroy these core standards that I already said I adhere to.
There's a growing sentiment among the left in this country that to be patriotic is to be overpatriotic. To profess love for my country is to profess hatred for others, and to support war in certain cases is akin to wanting to colonize the entire planet. Granted, I'm not attributing this to the entire subset of Americans who are liberal; however, the ones that have been most vocal against the recent events in the world are the ones who tend to say this sort of thing.
It all began about a month ago, when a restaurant owner in North Carolina wanted to make a small, innocuous demonstration that supported the troops overseas in their efforts to keep Saddam's feet to the fire as weapons inspections took place. In honor of them, he renamed his French fries into "freedom fries". Now, this wasn't even intended as a dig on the French - who up until this point had all but allied themselves with the Iraqi dictator. It was simply meant as a showing of patriotism.
Many liberals saw it differently, however. At best, they called the guy a loon for doing something so silly. Some of them mocked the concept of replacing the word "french" with "freedom" - why not go whole-hog and say freedom toast and freedom kisses, they said. People I talked to called this guy an idiot, and labeled this as a case of "overpatriotism".
Is there such a thing? I personally don't think so. In fact, I would go so far as to say that to these people, anyshowing of patriotism would be frowned upon as overpatriotism. After all, there are bumper stickers on countless cars opining that "Peace is Patriotic". If someone changes the name of his shredded potatoes, surely he must be going overboard. He's just one step away from becoming a nationalist hawk who wants Fuhrer Bush to transform the world into Republicanland.
I'm not going to say that one side is patriotic and one isn't, or that either side takes things to the extreme - I'm sure there are liberals who are proud to live in America, and there are likely some conservatives out there who do want us to turn the entire Middle East into the 51st through 55th states of the U.S. That's not the point of all this, anyway. The point of this is to explain the differences between being patriotic and being unpatriotic, and being patriotic or nationalist. There aren't too many differences between them, but once you notice what they are the categorizations become crystal clear.
First off, I consider myself a patriotic person because I, for one, am aware of what this country has gone through to earn the freedoms that I now enjoy. I know that in the 18th century, several members of the Continental Congress had the balls to tell England that we weren't going to be treated like an extension of King George's domain any further. I know that even though we were often outmanned, outflanked and outgunned, we somehow pulled off a gigantic upset against the British Empire. I know that we were nearly destroyed when the southern half of the country wanted to split from our union. I'm aware of the fact that for a while, we were actually losing World War II, but managed to gain the upper hand through the D-Day invasion and Battle of the Bulge. I know that for several decades, a communist regime was nipping at our heels, but we wore them out politically and strategically without firing a single shot at them.
I don't make a degree in U.S. history a criterion for being a patriot, but at the same time I do think in order to be patriotic, one must be aware of the tribulations that we have gone through to acquire and maintain our liberty. I think patriotism requires a full understanding of how our country operates. It requires knowing about the events that are happening around us, and knows our role in those events. If you honestly believe in that which this country stands for, it doesn't matter if you're a liberal or conservative - you're a patriot.
There are people I consider un-patriotic, as well. They are the ones who look at everything that any administration does as having some devious ulterior motive. If a law is passed, if a deal is made, if a person is chosen to fill some position, it must because of back-room dealings and black-helicopter conspiracies, all aimed with the one goal of separating the American population from their freedoms. When President Bush wanted to go into Iraq, it wasn't because he thought Saddam Hussein a threat to our security or to liberate the country's people from a tyrant, it was to accumulate more oil and kill women and children, all while tending to some unfinished business his dad had left over. These are the ones who look upon me as being a jingoistic overzealot.
Now, it is possible that one could be a nationalist as well. That's when you have a blind, vague arrogance about the country you live in. You don't know why America's the best; all you know is that someone told you that and you're not going to disagree. There's no idea of the sacrifices necessary to maintain our sanctity or understanding of ideals; simply the rah-rah rhetoric that has been spread around like peanut butter onto the masses. So far, I haven't seen too much of that. And when I have seen it, I make sure I distance my own patriotism from their nationalism.
Can you be patriotic without supporting the war in Iraq? Sure you can. Do some people believe in the war for improper reasons? I don't doubt it. But whichever side you fall on, it's counteractive to your cause to rationalize your opponent's stand as being either over- or underpatriotic.