On Patriotism

America no longer agrees on what is patriotic.

Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world[emphasis added]

 - Barack Hussein Obama

Today, Independence Day, is when Americans traditionally celebrate our nation's founding - its founding principles, its founding legends, its Founding Fathers.  The Founders themselves are long dead and gone, but they and the beliefs that drove them live on in our hearts, our minds, and in our politics.

At least, they live on in some of our hearts.  Our nation today is divided as it has not been since the Civil War, not merely politically, but in our most fundamental beliefs.  We're bitterly divided on what it means to be Americans.

Americans have always had disagreements - that's what it means to have liberty.  Our Founders themselves had serious disagreements on many points; we are fortunate that they found workable compromises.  During the runup to the Civil War, alas, the differences were too stark and no compromise turned out to be possible.

Why was the Civil War so vicious?  Because both sides saw themselves as the defenders of America's founding principles.

The North clung to the ideal of personal liberty, that "all men were created equal" and that therefore chattel slavery was not merely morally wrong, but a violation of the American covenant.

The South also clung to the ideal of personal liberty - that an individual person had the right to own and to control whatever property he was able to afford, and if that property happened to be another human being, so be it.

The North fought for the right not to be owned by someone else; the South, for the right to own someone else.  There's no middle ground here; the two views simply cannot coexist.  The dead on both sides went to their graves believing that their position was the patriotic American one.

Today we are in a similar situation.  As we've discussed before, Paul Krugman put the problem perfectly:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

There are some people who believe Barack Obama is a Manchurian candidate - a person secretly loyal to a foreign power (Islam?  the old Communist Soviet Union?) who merely pretends to be American in order to destroy America with malice aforethought.

I don't believe this.  Yes, objectively speaking, Mr. Obama is destroying what makes America American - our economy, our culture, our liberties, even our language.  But I don't think he himself views it that way, any more than the slaveowners of the South believed that their "peculiar institution" was poison to American liberty.

On the contrary: as he said in his Berlin speech, he views himself as both a proud American citizen and also a proud citizen of the world.  He doesn't see the inherent conflict in those views; he doesn't appear to feel that there is any conflict.  What's good for the world is automatically good for America, so in passing "the global test" with his every action, he's automatically benefiting America.

Except that he's not benefiting America at all; he's making America poorer, weaker, less respected, and less free.  But he does not see it that way.

To Eat Out Our Substance

Consider the actions of Leftist leaders over the past decades - not just Obama, but Carter, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and even Hillary Clinton (less so Bill).  Just as Paul Krugman said, these politicians fervently believe in the moral imperative of taking money from people who earned it and giving it to others who didn't.

They make no excuse for this.  They proudly proclaim that doing so makes us a better country.

The goal of Obamacare, and Hillarycare before it, was to provide health insurance for those without it, which they portrayed as a moral good.  Now, there is nobody in America who has no access to health care - anyone can walk into a doctor's office with a fat wad of cash, and odds are they'll be treated.  Even without any cash, you can walk into an emergency room and by law you must be given treatment if your problem is at all serious.

The only goal of national health care "reform" was to lower health care costs for favored people, mostly the poor and our elected officials.  To do so, the legislation raised costs on disfavored people, mostly but not exclusively the marginally-richer.

By the definition of conservatives, this is theft and tyranny, but by the definition of the Democrats and the left, it is a requirement of all right-thinking and decent people.  In their view, they are being patriotic precisely by destroying what we view as essential freedoms.

We see this same disconnect in virtually every major issue.  Conservatives view official tolerance of illegal immigration as an assault on the fundamental American principle of rule of law, as well as the destruction of a unified national public culture and language, thus as near-treason.  The left, in starkest contrast, considers open borders to be required by America's purpose as a refuge for anyone who claims to merely want a better life than can be readily had in their native land.  One man's treason is another man's patriotic duty!

Abortion, of course, is the stellar example - does it involve government intrusion into the most private of personal medical decisions, or is it official tolerance of the brutal murder of innocent children?  Both points of view can't be true, or even of merit - one must be correct, and the other an evil lie.

Go on down the list of every major current issue, from government spending to unionization to public school policies and funding to environmental regulation to labor law to family law to marriage law, and two utterly irreconcilable sides barely coexist while the hatred, resentment, and oppression grow.

This can't go on forever, and a recent Harvard study brings scientific proof to something that will be evidenced today all across the fruited plain:

A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day. "Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party," said the report from Harvard.

Was it not a scant few years ago that we heard, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"?  Yet even the Marxists at Harvard, deep down in their hearts, understand that drinking lemonade and waving Old Glory while watching our soldiers march by to a brass band, is different in every way from screaming "No blood for oil!" whilst smashing in a store window with a placard invoking vulgar allusions to a sitting president's surname.

The racists of the old South, for all their protestations, may have been Southern patriots - but they weren't American patriots.  Unfortunately, it took a war for the whole country to see it.

Be a patriot, yes - but carefully consider just what that means, in light of America's history of individual responsibility, individual rights, individual liberty, and justice - not social justice, not environmental justice, not food justice, and God knows not climate justice, but justice straight and undiluted - for all.

God bless America.  Though if we were Him, we'd wonder whether America would even notice or much care whether or not He did.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Well said, sir. Very well said. I love that subtitle: To Eat Out Our Substance.

July 4, 2011 9:16 AM

"Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party"


Liberals really can't be patriotic without it making them more "Republican"??

I guess it's about time they were honest about how they see the US.

Well done article, Petrarch.

July 4, 2011 9:21 AM

Your last sentence says it all. God blesses us, and most don't care. Millions blaspheme Him by murdering babies and spitting on His Words. Why He would continue caring about America is beyond human comprehension.

July 4, 2011 9:43 AM

Tara, that is true but those that believe in God must remember that there have been many civilizations far more barbaric than the United States which claimed God's blessings. He's seen a lot worse than this.

July 4, 2011 11:07 AM

"Meanwhile the TVZombie 'viewing audience' doesn't care about anything but hot dogs and fireworks. A full quarter of them don't even know who the colonists declared independence from, or what the year was that the Declaration was made"


July 4, 2011 12:47 PM

I believe that to be a patriot one HAS TO consider what that means. You can't have one without the other. That's the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

July 5, 2011 10:32 AM

Most people don't know what went on in our country in 1776. It's hardly taught in school anymore. Young generations here in the USA have no idea of what is in the Declaration of Independence, they never read any part of the Constitution and they have no idea of who our oountry's founding fathers even are. They also have no idea of how life-threatening it was for each one of our founding fathers to sign that Declaration of Independence. They risked their personal lives, their businesses, their families' livlihoods and homes, staking it all on the hopes that 13 colonies of "regular people" could fight off and win their freedom from the established military super-power of that era, England.

Yes, fireworks and hotdogs. That's all some people want to know. They don't realize that, while they are chomping away on those hotdogs, that they are breathing air that is free thanks to the blood and sacrifices of millions of Americans who lived before them and who fought for our freedom. That old adage could easily come back to haunt us all if we don't stand together. "you don't miss it till it's gone".

July 18, 2011 9:07 PM
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