Insert obligatory chest-thumping, jingoistic title here
I was an odd kid when it came to all things patriotic. Nominally, I wasn't supposed to be patriotic. Jehovah's Witnesses are neutral on nationalistic matters, taking literally the words from the Lord's Prayer "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." They subscribe allegiance to that kingdom, and refuse to give allegiance to any other earthly kingdom. The net effect is that while they obey the laws of the land, they refuse to serve in any armies, run for or vote in any political contest, and don't express any political opinions openly. No room for patriotism.
Obviously, that's one of the many things I left behind when I left the church. Hell, even before I'd had the opportunity to fornicate, I'd registered to vote.
But while I feel I'm patriotic (of a sort), I don't feel nationalistic, which is why I shake my head in bemusement over the way idiots like Jonah Goldberg rant on about patriotism in such simplistic ways. A sample:
One of my co-panelists, Julianne Malveaux, explained early in the program that she won't say the Pledge of Allegiance at all — with or without "under God." Then, later, as the show was wrapping up, Wolf Blitzer asked all the guests what they were doing for the Fourth of July, especially considering all of the terrorist warnings. I said, lamely, "I just moved into a new house, so I'll be unpacking regardless of the bombs blowing up."
And Ms. Malveaux said, "I don't celebrate the Fourth of July. I get up in the morning and read Frederick Douglass's "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" and then I grouse for the rest of the day... I did that last year. I'll do it this year."
It occurred to me then — though too late to say anything at the time — that if I had said something to the effect of "I guess I can question your patriotism now," I would have been the bad guy.
You're right, Jonah. You would have been the bad guy, and deservedly so. Refusing to say the pledge or, heaven forbid! acknowledging that the US has treated a significant portion of its citizenry shittily doesn't make one unpatriotic.
This came up because Goldberg had gone after Howard Zinn earlier in the way he wishes he'd gone after Malveaux on tv. So being a fan of Zinn, I decided to read the post that had gotten his shorts in a wad. And no surprise--Zinn is right.
On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.
Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?
And my answer is an unqualified yes. Nationalism, or blind patriotism, is dangerous, and has been at the heart of some of the greatest ills humans have ever experienced. Is there a significant difference between Lebensraum and Manifest destiny? Is there something dangerous about questioning our government's actions, especially since we as citizens will be held to account for them by the rest of the world?
Zinn concludes with this claim:
We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.and no doubt that's what got Goldberg in such a tizzy. "We can't be the same as everyone else. We have to be special. We have to be better." I can almost hear the whining.
We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.
The thing I love about this nation isn't who we are as a people, but what I feel we have the potential to become, and it's not that no one else has that same potential--it's just that we have the tools ready and at hand. We have a government based on something unique--a set of ideas--as opposed to a culture that dates back hundreds of thousands of years. We're genuinely heterogenous as a nation, and even though we have major divides between some members of some of our ethnic groups, the general idea is that everyone's still a citizen. And even though the current Supreme Court seems to wish to return us to the days when the white, landowning male reigned unchallenged, we still have the Constitution, one of the most (unintentionally) progressive documents a nation was ever founded around.
The US can become a great nation, but it won't become one simply by wallowing in the ignorance of "my country, right or wrong." We have to acknowledge our place in a world society, and that what we do affects others to an inordinate degree. And we need to admit that we're not the best at everything we do. Being humble enough to acknowledge that there are other nations who have figured out how to do stuff better than we have isn't unpatriotic; it's smart. We'd be a hell of a lot better off if folks like Jonah Goldberg could get down from the superiority wagon long enough to realize that.