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What is meant by Patriotism?

August 8, 2015

When I posted this Bitstrip for the 4th of July, one FB friend says “You’re a true patriot. I see you attempt to reason with ignorant, racists as if they are reasonable too and I applaud your extraordinary patience.” (Wish I had thought to make the post that day).

I was a bit surprised to be called a “patriot”. I was more used to my views being called “anti-American” by many of these far right people in the conservative debates I have been in, who have basically appropriated the notion of “patriotism” for themselves, by arguing for “exceptionality”, and justifying their views with the Constitution, and the supposed “original values” upon which the nation was founded. (Which included slavery and other forms of oppression, but most of these people won’t admit that, but instead try to blame it all on the other political party).
An “enemy of the country” just for debunking this “exceptionality” concept that leads them to blame everyone else (including the racial minorities) for everything they see wrong with it today.

So I responded by attributing it to my midlife “inferior Fe” development [this was a typology friend who knows the types and functions].
“I’ve always lived here, loved the ideals (as I learned on the old ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ segments), loved celebrating [cookouts, watching fireworks, and trying to shoot off my own], deep down admire the ‘patriotism’ of the people I argue with, and want to “belong”, and tried to give people a chance and believe we were getting over the race issue.
Then, for a time, turned the other way and tended to blame the country for all of my frustrations in life, especially social and economic, but now come to realize it’s ‘nature’ (a survival instinct that makes the powerful tend to tread on the weak, regardless of country, regime or race), not some artificial social or political group man has carved out of himself, which we then treat as individual entities themselves and ‘split’ off all evil onto. (And I wish these other people would realize this too).

The whole Confederate vs USA flag debate made me further realize, as someone put it, that while the CSA was committed to preserving slavery, and the flag used by later people opposing Civil Rights, the USA, while hosting all the same stuff, did at least, as a whole, change. And since it’s not an individual ‘racist’ person, but rather includes all of us, then I want to join in the celebration too. It is part of ‘who I am'”.

I had years earlier, during those debates, written originally for another (more neutral to liberal) forum’s Politics section, in a discussion on “What you hate about the USA”, I decided to outline

What I don’t like, and fuels my annoyance in these pages (to give a better sense of where I’m really coming from):

As I came of age, I came to associate the USA with those most loudly co-opting it as their own, which they were trying to “take back”, and that; being the conservatives, especially the religious ones.

They spoke about how nearly perfect the country was from it’s “godly” founding, yet ignored the evils of slavery and subsequent racism. And then, championing it against the ‘villains’ of communism, whom they called “materialistic”.
Meanwhile, every city was burned out at the core, with mass poverty and failing education, and I watched as prices went up, and quality of products went down. I remember toys breaking on Christmas day; screws that stripped like they were made of lead, and the ubiquitous echo of “they don’t make ____ like they used to!” Products would be advertised with outrageous claims, such as glue that could hold an airplane together, yet it could not even do what you normally expect glue to do, such as hold up lightweight mirror tiles we had.

Yet the capitalism that produced all of this was said to be God’s system, and the executives of both business and government were becoming ever richer. This obvious “materialism” was just blamed on the “influence” of “Darwin and Marx” through the educational system by Christian preachers throughout this period.

Conservatives began blaming taxes spent on “social programs” (mainly for minorities) for all the economic problems, and accused anyone who disagreed as “advocating failed socialism”.

Culturally, it seemed to become more and more decadent, with entertainers and sports stars also making ridiculously more than everyone else, and no one seemed to even think about it, as they spent a whole week’s pay or more on games, movies or vacations, and just went back to griping about taxes. Movies just seemed to glorify violence and wild reckless action, which kids seemed to be increasingly emulating. Even rap, which seemed to start out as a countercultural message medium challenging the system, now just became just as decadent, and then, quickly after that, violent, and filling in the negative stereotypes people already had.

I sort of lumped all of that together as “American culture”, (the ultimate signature song being James’ Brown’s 1980’s comeback hit “Living in America”) and later came to see that many conservatives (especially the religious ones) are also against much of popular culture, so any one group was not responsible for all the problems.

Even down to today, the whole “Tea Party” mentality that continues to blame taxes (stoked by the health care bill), and will blame Obama instead of the auto or bank executives for the need of bailouts, and when you point out how much these types of executives make, they say “stop whining, they pulled up their bootstraps”, all the while themselves whining about taxes still. They also blame those suckered by the banks with the home loans, evoking the notion of “personal responsibility”. While this may be partly true, why should those throwing the temptation out there (into a trap, basically, and knowingly) be held blameless?

But to top it off, once you do try to pull your bootstraps, the system consistently raises the bar, and makes it harder to succeed. Like instead of my wife being able to make money, she had to pay more money to go back to school (and now still having to jump through hoops to get the license that will allow her to make more money), because they changed some law, making her Masters’ not enough. All of this while money and jobs became so tight.

So people will wonder why so many others give up and try to get by on programs. Looks to me like they are trying to turn us into some third world country, with a small elite ruling class. It’s like if you don’t have a special talent, as an executive, or entrepeneur/engineer, entertainer or athlete, then you don’t “deserve” any better. But of course, people are made to blame only taxes, and stuff like unions for high prices and low quality. They constantly tell others “life is not fair”, until someone tries to make something fair for someone else (feared to be at their expense), in which they now scream “unfair!”

And just the sheepish mindset of all the “dittoheads” who go along with all this, and the Joe the Plumbers who so look up to the rich that to tax them they see as a personal affront, even when they are nowhere near being rich themselves. [This article I was poor, but a GOP die-hard: How I finally left the politics of shame takes us inside the view of one of these types of people, who then gets wise. They basically believe themselves as failures, and thus tried to live vicariously through the rich, who they then defend as if it were themselves, and project their own sense of worthlessness onto others who struggle].

And the continued decadence with all of these faces we see on TV or the taboids or “Page Six” gossip columns everyday, some of whom do not even have much talent (Britney, Paris, and whoever the popular ones today, [Kardashians, etc] etc). All of this attention, and all of the money, even though the rest of the nation is on total cutback mode [like it’s the “Ice Age”]. And again, no one seems to blink.

Of course, there are a lot of more liberal people, yet I come to distrust many of their solutions as well. They too are playing a power game, and just going a different way about it. It swings back and forth to one side or the other being in power, and it just seems to slow down or speed up the perpetually prevailing trends (country becoming more morally liberal, and yet classwise, conservative; e.g. rich getting richer).

I had told a staunch conservative I was arguing with (one of the ones mentioned above) that I envied them, as they were able to find such identity in the nation and its history. But I think they are able to do that by just shifting the attribution of all of its evil to “them”, the “other”, and all of its good to their forefathers, or that God “raised/chose” the nation.

On both sides, it seems we all complain about everything, from the other political party, to our own party (e.g. no longer conservative or liberal enough), to the entertainments we consume so much. (And I do it a bit too, elsewhere on my webspace and in discussions).

But what ultimately is a “nation”? Just a collective of people, and they will never create a perfect system.

Just what is America, anyway?

Yes, I wished I could take pride in the nation the way they do. But at this point, I’m still uncertain about what the definition of “America” really is. You have what the nation was, what it is, and what it will be.

Conservatives seem to define America in terms of what it was. This is based on morality, religion, and the Constitution, but also includes slavery and inequality, often with brutal treatment. Most either brush it off as an innocent mistake, and others think it was justified, by God’s “providence”, and we should just be “thankful” today.

Ironically, as much as they like to accuse others of “hating” the nation, they hate it just as much —as it IS, in contrast to what it WAS, which is the actual nation they “love”. [While excoriating Michelle Obama for saying that she for the first time was proud of of the nation; i.e. she went from not being proud of it, to being proud of it; their main hero Rush Limbaugh admitted actually going the opposite direction, from being proud of the nation, to no longer being proud if it!]
Let’s not forget, before 9-11, the biggest attack on our shores was by conservatives, who echoed the same ideology of how big and liberal the government had become, and the moral issues, etc. People will point to Rev. Wrights’s thundering of “damnation” to America (IIRC, largely on Katrina and other such racial issues), but quickly forget the white conservative Christian leaders who had long preached the same judgment on America (including 9-11 and Katrina), for homosexuality, abortion, belief in God, etc. [And they are seen as being the nation’s biggest defenders]. How can their followers condemn Wright (as “hating” the nation)?

The other main alternative to this is the liberal or “progressive” view, which is constantly trying to change and redefine America. They hope its true ideals, which were failed in the past, will be what the nation WILL be. They do probably admittedly, hate what the country was, and to a large extent, [still] is. This is one reason why the conservatives end up “burned”, even in my mind, as the “true” pro-Americans. (Aside from just them being the biggest flag wavers and praising it all the time). They are upholding what we can clearly see in retrospect, through history. Who knows what the liberals are trying to turn the country into? While they are playing on the theme of “liberty and justice”, it is in many ways just so different from what we know. (I guess this appeals to me too, having introverted Sensing as a fairly conscious function).

But on the other hand, I know I and many others don’t want the America that we did know of; of the past. All there was was a veneer of morality (that often went to unbiblical and unnatural extremes), yet there were all sorts of injustices and inhumanities, that again, were somehow rationalized; often by extending Old Testament principles, that should have been clear as having ended at the Cross. (And that, IF they weren’t nonapplicable practices with the biblical principles torn from their contexts).

So I end up torn regarding the nation. Who will end up defining it? Does being a Patriot mean believing my ancestors were cursed by God, and delivered into the colonists’ hands as slaves or segregated away when that didn’t work out, and now, the descendants of those slaves [including myself apparently, unless I’m just a “good one”] are just an economic drain and its moral and civil undoing? (While those making all the money and leaving everyone else high and dry are justified?) Will it be a place where “anything goes”, either economically, or morally (except for religions and other beliefs that offend people)? Will we ever live up to our claims of liberty and justice, and be satisfied as a nation?

[ Edit, even more late, I find this article from last year:
and even more on topic, this one from this year:
Are Conservatives More Patriotic Than Liberals?
Perhaps a response to the same thing the other one was answering was this: but their definition of “patriotism” is what they call “old-fashioned pride in country” reflected in belief “that the U.S. stands above all other countries” and “pounds its chest…about its own greatness and exceptionalism. The America it can feel proud of exists not in actuality, but in prospect, as a vessel for a distinct ideological vision. For the Left, America is lovely to the extent it corresponds to a progressive vision of a European-style welfare state that leads from behind in international affairs. ]

From → Politics

  1. Monument to American “rugged individualism”. Wonder where in that is any sense of one’s own sinfulness. Just “God’s help” is needed to be so good and “exceptional”.

  2. The right has its own version of political correctness. It’s just as stifling.
    Conservatives use “patriotic correctness” to regulate speech, behavior and acceptable opinions.

  3. Eight Myths Americans Need to Unlearn About America

    If you criticize America, that means you hate America — and Americans!!
    Americans are the most virtuous people of all!!
    Americans aren’t self-interested egomaniacs, self-interest has made them excel.
    America is full of people trying to do the right thing!!
    America isn’t collapsing!!! It’s not the Walking Dead out there!!
    Americans love freedom!! You just don’t get us!!
    We can’t compare America to any other country! Especially not strange, dangerous ones!
    Just go away!! We don’t need to listen to people who are critical of America! They’ll never help us!!

  4. Is “freedom” different for liberals and conservatives?
    View at

    At the time [80’s when Lee Greenwood first released the song “Proud to Be an American”], liberals felt that they had to apologize. We had been demonized for protesting the Vietnam War. The protests of 1960s liberals to end the war and protect civil rights were framed by conservatives as “anti-American.”

    In a sense, conservatives were correct. Liberals like my mother-in-law were protesting America as it was at the time. They had a vision for a better America, one in which all children, regardless of ethnicity, gender or social background, would have an equal chance, without fear of being sent to fight in a pointless foreign war. To them, freedom was the ability to fight for their vision of a better America.
    To conservatives, however, this freedom was a threat to their freedom. To them, freedom was the right to do whatever they and people like them wanted to do, no matter how that trampled upon the freedom of other people not like them. They wanted to be free to marry the people they wanted to without fear of seeing a same-sex or interracial married couple. They wanted to be free to worship as long as they didn’t have to associate with people who worshiped differently from them. They wanted their children to have the best schools, and wanted to make sure their children would only associate with other children just like them.

    In 1960, the birth control pill became readily available, likely helping usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. As people moved to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s, families became less connected, as the movie Avalon details. The civil rights and feminist movements starting in the 1950s and 1960s started to bring non-white and female voices to the fore. Change was certainly afoot.
    These changes made conservatives feel as if their “freedom” to only associate with people like themselves was under attack. As a result, they weaponized the word, coming to understand it not as a broad-based freedom for everyone, but an effort to protect the oppressive society they had enjoyed the benefits of.

  5. Fake White Patriotism Means Nothing Except Oppression for All
    Real patriotism is hard.

    “What we see so often in our culture isn’t patriotism at all. It’s white nationalism in disguise. It’s racist politicians using stars and stripes as weapons and distractions. It’s hate-mongers calling their opponents names and dehumanizing them, and threatening marginalized groups with violence while pretending they do it all for love of country.”

    And links to this article:

    Fake Patriotism

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