patriotism

crooked timber has a debate between harry brighouse and peter levine, on whether patriotism should be taught in our schools. levine has this little nugget of gold.

Patriotism is love of country. For most people, it is not a passionate and exclusive and life-altering love. It’s more like love for a blood-relative, perhaps an aunt. It doesn’t involve choice. It doesn’t require a tremendously high estimate of the object’s intrinsic qualities. … I think that people should love large human communities in this way. You may put your family first, but to love only them is too exclusive. Loving all of humankind is good, but it doesn’t mean the same thing as love for a concrete object.here

thats cute. nation as concrete object. i’ll have to remember that.

other than “the nation”, patriotism doesn’t really tell you what to love. what is ‘the nation’, after all? (sorry for channeling socanth 101, but bear with me). i consider myself a patriot. i go to the all you can eat buffet, look at the people around me, then down to the american flag on the sneeze guard, and sincerely think “god bless america” (honestly). i live in dc, and little makes me happier than watching families on vacation roam the mall. little makes me angrier than watching people disgrace america – enemies foreign or domestic.

the history of america i know isn’t a positive one. we were founded in slavery. affirmed in class warfare (shay’s rebellion). expanded via genocide (trail of tears, state of oklahoma). fought wars of conquest. our interventions in latin america have been nothing but criminal. i can’t say that i’m fond of the nicaraguization of the rest of our foreign policy. i worry about the path we’re on. i worry what it means that so many americans are depressed…

but i love our ideals. freedom. truth. democracy. i chose to study political science to better understand and communicate them to others, because i want us to live up to them. being this kind of patriot, i think, is productive. its what shocks me into action, every time a public official lies. (or when liars become press secretaries, if you like topical).

what worries me, not all people understand america the same way. growing up in montana, i can remember more than a couple shotgun-staccato’d yells of “long live white america” at 4th of July celebrations. my car has been peppered more times than i can count with “save the white baby” posters. (did i mention? i’m hispanic – native born, like it matters). a ‘friend’ in high school insisted on singing cheech and chong songs around me, and calling me a spic. on main street, my (gay) friends and i (straight, like it matters) have had beer bottles thrown at them from the backs of trucks. if i remember, the thower yelled about a “queer pride parade”.

i imagine they don’t think of the nation the same way i do.

to people who don’t understand america, who think hispanics and gays and… and… don’t belong, patriotism isn’t a virtue. its a rosarch test of vice. large swaths of this country aren’t far from that. i do want them to love the america i know. its the one they see that scares me.

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