Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Patriot Realist

There are some who believe that to be a patriot, one must support the actions taken by one’s country no matter what. While that neatly defines a nationalist, I think it is insufficient to describe those who love their country.

I do believe that we live in the greatest country on the face of the Earth, but not because I call nothing done in its name a mistake, nor because I support its leaders without second guessing them, but because there is nothing wrong with America that Americans can’t fix, and our system is built to make that possible.

From time to time, I've related Douglas Hofstadter's concept of a strange loop to people in describing the human mind, the notion of a logical system that can turn on itself and change it's own rules. It's a concept one can say is descriptive of the human mind. We can, in following the logic or the feel of things come to change our mind about them.

I think all human systems have that character to them, but not all are at peace with it. Too many kinds of government try and create perfection and harmony out of thin air, and then try and lock the system in its "perfect" arrangement. Our system is different. It confronts the fact that a nation can change, that its people can change, and that it's situation can change.

Instead of insisting on authority that remains unbending in its pursuit of its goals by the means it wants to use, this system allows those who feel the consequence to turn around and ask for their leaders to admit their errors and fix them, to ask for the leaders to turn aside from injurious or unliked policies. We are not required to be advocates for our government's policies, the way some poor souls overseas have to be. If we say one thing in public, and another in private, it's our choice.

This is also a country that allows diversity that other countries would consider dangerous. There are countries all over the world that riot over differences we wouldn't even credit as meaningful. We don't have the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland, The religious conflicts or language riots of India, or the political violence that China uses to keep communism on top.

Where other countries impose order on their societies, ours evolves with a wierd kind of non-linear synchrony. Our robust diversity gives us the option to change the character of our nation with enviable ease, shifting from the old order to the new by consensus more than conflict. The system has its limits, but it performs admirably well.

With this war, an unwise few have stoked up the fires of red-baiting again, replacing commies with terrorists, spreading the claim that the left in this country is trying to bring it down or at least set to do so by weak policies. They fail to trust in one thing: If the other side were to fail, they too would see the wrath of the voter.

I personally would turn against any Democrat who failed to deal with the problems at hand. I would complain myself on this site over that. I would not have this country reject somebody on their dangerous and unproductive policy only to turn around accept the same thing from somebody inside my party.

Parties must police their own, and take the political cost of that, because otherwise the political cost is trust and support worn down slowly and painfully as one person gets disillusioned after another. People know they deserve better than patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels, the last defense for the indefensible. You might be able to persuade people to hold off on holding you accountable for the damage you're doing, but eventually the bill will come due.

In the thirst to regain the White House and assert permanent control of that and the legislature, the Republicans have used patriotism as a bludgeon to knock aside discourse and dissent alike. They've fallen back on the old Cold War charges of weakness on defense, and mad-libbed in a new enemy to say we're cowards in the face of.

Wrapping themselves in the flag, they do more than merely present themselves as patriots, the present themselves as the only ones worthy of being called patriots. All Americans are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Perhaps in more relaxed times we would brush aside such arrogance, and come back to the issues. I feel, though, that in this time of crisis, such behavior creates a dangerous lack of communication and trust across party lines, in a time when we have bigger fish to fry than who can go further over the top in saying they love America.

We cannot afford to show our patriotism by backing a set of legislative and executive branch agendas on patriotic intent alone. If the love of our country motivates us, we must make sure our policies and our laws both serve our country well, and demonstrate it's greatness here and abroad. Our results must match or exceed our intentions. Otherwise, our Patriotism expresses our love of ourselves better than our love for America.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at July 4, 2005 10:10 AM