Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July! I love this country, warts and all. It is the far from perfect, but by far and as a whole, it is the greatest country on this planet. As this article notes, "After all, since humans climbed out of the trees and began surveying the lion-infested Savannah, none have ever lived in a period more prosperous, secure and stable than Americans do today. The U.S. is not only the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth now, but in all of history. There's never been a better time and place to be alive than America in the 21st century." The whole piece is an interesting read about the current spate of America-is-in-decline books.

There does seem to be an interesting dichotomy on how the two sides of the aisle view America, and specifically, their views on American patriotism. It really comes down to looking at the glass half-full or half-empty. It seems that the left always takes the more pessimistic view regarding this country. As Joe Klein writes in Time magazine, "This is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what's wrong with America than what's right." Even among the blogs, you can tell who you are reading by the tone of the posts and comments. This piece exemplifies my point:

"A mother of a heroin addict, for example, is critical of her child's drug abuse and wants it to stop. The mother wants only the best for her child. Does the mother's criticism of the child's actions in any way illustrate that she does not love her child? On the contrary, it is because the mother loves her child and is devoted to her child that she wants her child to be better, greater than he/she is."

Yeah, that's it--let's think of America as a heroin-addict! Works for me!

As Jonah Goldberg notes, " . . . at the end of the day the patriotic American believes that America is fundamentally good as it is." Does that mean that my government can do no wrong? Does that mean I should never question my government? No, not at all. I think this is the nub of the argument--America is a great country, whether or not we have had a great government, and sometimes in spite of it.

James Lileks hits the nail on the head with this one, pointing out the smugness with which a lot of critics look at this nation. In their world,

". . . we will never be a great nation until we all realize how much we suck, and then we will also realize it is wrong to be a great nation. For that matter, nationhood are overrated. (The only nation that gets to be a nation is France.)Nations are bad enough, but we’re something else:the only nation that has ever fought a war, acted in self-interest, had a good opinion of itself, permitted slavery, elected leaders who lacked a certain Olympian quality, had a popular culture that included simple catchy melodies and bright pictures, harbored racist attitudes, had a strong religious element, and contained a sizable amount of stupid people."

But this is what is so difficult about Obama, and his patriotism. Again, from Jonah Goldberg,

"I am absolutely certain," he proclaimed upon clinching the Democratic nomination, "that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." So wait, America never provided care for the sick or good jobs for the jobless until St. Barack arrived? That doesn't sound like the country most Americans think of when they wave their flags on the Fourth of July.
The notion that what America needs is a redeemer figure to "remake" America from scratch isn't necessarily unpatriotic. But for lots of Americans who like America the way it is, it's sometimes hard to tell when it isn't.

I want to emphasize a few things here. America is not above reproach; no one is claiming that. And criticism of America does not make one unpatriotic. At all. But it's okay to love your country, even if it's only once in a while.

And even if it's every day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a lot to get to here, but I have lots of time because I only love my country (being a liberal) once in a while. Can you imagine how much extra time that makes for me? Of course, I do expend some of that hating my country -- but I still think it's a net gain.

Where does this crap come from? You cannot really take people like Lileks, whose halting style comes not from a flair for the dramatic, but rather his frequent need to get up and yell "you kids get off my lawn!", seriously. And Jonah Goldberg, (the Paris Hilton of the right wing), in his latest screed admits that he doesn't really know how to define fascism and that "not even the professionals have figured out what exactly fascism is" (on page 2!); unfortunately for us all, lacking this knowledge in no way impedes him from writing another 400 pages on it.

Just how much do you really love this country if you hate more than half the population (you know, those awful people in the blue states)? I've always been confused by this line of argument: did the cottage industry of right wing talk radio and fox news that sprang from a bitter (and I do mean bitter) hatred of the Clintons, in their learned and measured dissent, were they showing an unpatriotic side? Get ready to flip the scales again as we prepare for a democratic administration, where criticism of our government can once again become the most patriotic activity these brave Americans can do.