I recently read on a public forum a statement by an American who pastes a pretty US flag icon on his page and starts out saying “I take great pride in my country.”
“For all the leftists and Europeans that love to call America as an uncultured, racist, sexist hellhole, I’d like you to point out the positive things of this great country.”
He says they talk as if America is the “worst country in the world” and proceeds to list various characteristics of this “worst country in the world,” including the considerable number of people who migrate to it; the “high GDP per capita”; the “worlds [sic] most powerful military including high tech weapons and a large amount of manpower”; “one of the highest living standards in the world”; the fact that “the US has shaped much of the modern world today,” brand names like “Nike, Apple, and Starbucks” that originated in America. That was about the extent of the merits he could think of.
Then for the sake of full disclosure, he admits “we do have our faults. Our healthcare system is expensive and broken. The political system equally terrible, and racism still is a barrier to African Americans.”
It occurred to me upon reading this that there are several impediments facing Americans who aspire to be good patriots but most do not acknowledge the existence of these impediments and therefore will never be able to reach their goal unless they wake up.
Firstly, while America touts itself as a democracy or democratic republic, depending on one’s party loyalties, it lacks the basic requisites for this form of government, the most obvious being that most Americans, despite exercising their right to vote, feel disenfranchised and unrepresented and/or betrayed, though most can’t articulate why they feel this way, with each political group attributing their misgivings to the opposing political party, with Republicans generally blaming Democrats and vice-versa, and the sought remedy being to support in the next election a candidate who says things that resonate with them. Which they invariable do, and then things just get worse. Indeed, the fact that the rich and powerful actually drive US politics was the conclusion of a joint Northwestern-Princeton study done last October, so they were right about their misgivings but not about the other party necessarily being the origin of them. Nor were the researchers who did that study necessarily on-target when they framed the issue as a specifically rich-poor dichotomy, ignoring other pertinent features of the power class that always gets its way in Washington – such as the heavy hand of AIPAC and the Saudis unduly influencing US foreign policy, the latter wielding the bludgeon of the petrodolllar.
Secondly, most self-styled or aspiring patriots miss the point that being dissatisfied with the direction the country is taking and the perpetual warsis not unpatriotic if the political class responsible for the misdirection and the wars is not acting in the people’s interests. The patriot in question did not address this issue and perhaps did not understand it well enough to address it. At any rate he did not list all those things that the “liberals and Europeans” complain about unjustly, just the racism and sexism but not the perennial wars and the government’s allegiance to the terror-supporting Saudis and the Israelis whose soldiers now have orders to shoot unarmed protesters to kill. Apparently, many people seeking the title of “patriot” are in perfect agreement with their government on foreign policy that kills innocents yet claim to be for the people and the Constitution. If the God they claim to believe in is real, then they are in trouble because He does not sanction killing anyone, even foreigners.
But in fact it is no longer possible to define and distinguish liberal left vs conservative right in America. At one time, for example, the left was anti-war, but today there is virtually no difference between the two parties in this respect. After 9-11, both parties, for example, favoured attacking first Afghanistan and then Iraq and bombing the latter to smithereens with no regard for life. The moral misgivings that had been expressed so profusely and articulately in the war years of the 60s were muted. To be anti-war was grossly unpatriotic after 9-11, and it was seen as slightly effeminate and even anti-Semitic, to oppose the war on Islam – er, that is, terrorism – at that time. And that attitude has not died out.
And of course there was a time when the left was for the worker and opposed to the mercenary interests of the very rich, but that is no longer the case. In 2008 when the banks and loan companies were in a precarious position, GW Bush and both political parties agreed to give the money of middle class and other taxpayers to the least-stable banks – ie, those most responsible for the housing crisis – as bailouts, under the pretext that the country was at economic risk. That was the poor helping the rich but neither party objected strenuously enough to prevent this gross injustice from happening. Nor do Trump supporters object to the current administration levying sanctions and killer tariffs against Russia and buyers of its energy products for the obvious reason of stifling free trade as it has generally been practiced for decades in the US. Again, free trade was once a sacred feature of right wing policies. You didn’t squeeze your competitor by punishing his customers. But now it is patriotic to do so.
Voters identifying as right-wingers used to be pro-war but when Trump ran for president, it was they who most strongly supported his campaign-trail opposition to a prolonged presence in Iraq and Syria and his criticism of pre-emptive strikes and long term military engagement and occupation in the Middle East. Of course, now that he has named 100% Neocons to his cabinet and as ambassadors to the UN and NATO, and now that he has saved all the beautiful babies in Syria with his Tomahwak attacks on beautiful babies, the excuse the acolytes have made for him is that the Deep State is holding a gun to his head to make him back away from his promises. Poor Trump. He'd make peace if only they'd let him. Some of my Evangelical friends think he is an agent of God Almighty. Some call him “a Cyrus,” others “a Nebuchadnezzar.” Anything but an entertainer who is not measuring up to the challenges of his career change.
Thus to accuse one’s adversaries of being liberals or acting like Europeans means nothing except that one is frustrated with the way things are going. Yet we all are frustrated and no one likes the course the US has taken, with the left and right both betraying their charter principles.
Thirdly, it is almost impossible for an American to self-identify as a patriot and not be a hypocrite because a patriot is by definition a person who loves his country, but if the right hates the left and the left hates the right, then unless an American’s politics fall outside that range, that person hates or at least deeply mistrusts and harbours some animus against about half of Americans. You can’t claim to love your country if you hate half its citizens.
Conclusion: Since harbouring an animus against your fellow citizens is clearly and by definition unpatriotic, it is time for Americans to start breaking down the barriers that they have erected between each other. For example, rationale people on both sides of the spectrum have to admit that, whatever Russia may have done in the past or even now, that country has long desired to be the friend of the US. The US’ posturing at the UN and NATO is unfitting, inappropriate, and even rude at times, not to mention the “s” word. For example, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently said “Russia will never be our friend,” and “we will slap them whenever it is necessary.” Needless to say, that is not how normal diplomats – or even normal responsible humans – talk to each other, particularly in the highest echelons in an official body as a representative of a nuclear power addressing another nuclear power. Even a Democrat or a Russia hater can appreciate the mindless recklessness of that kind of talk. Further, Navy Chief Ryan Zinke was not wearing his thinking cap when he suggested the best way to compete with China economically would be to lay a naval blockade on the entire country. Likewise, US NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson said something so outlandish that I am compelled to break protocol and slap her with the “S” word. Hutchinson suggested just invading Russia and “taking out” a missile that allegedly represents a breach of a treaty with the US. Excuse me, Kay, I am going to call that just plain stupid. It betrays a fact that people everywhere are increasingly realizing: that the US military is all bark and no bite.
But Americans are mostly focused on side issues, like the myriad investigations into men manhandling women in the distant past or the tired old “highly likely” allegations against Russia. Russia poisoned so-and-so – there’s no proof but it’s highly likely so we are going to punish Russia. Russia meddled in the election, but it was a private firm that supposedly “done it.” We’re still going to punish the RF government for what the private company did. Can the US get back to real business, like healing the rift between Americans of various races and on both sides of the aisle, and patching up our relations with Russia? After all, Russia will restore normal relations in a heartbeat. Would you really prefer to keep provoking the nuclear armed bear? If so, I’m going to call stupid on you as well.
If the US continues this irresponsible behaviour, it will lose all but the most loyal friends, and even those will have second thoughts about their retarded friend.