Monday, June 30, 2008

Redefining Patriotism

Every Presidential election, the subject of patriotism is bandied about. I think it mostly comes from the Democrats, since they seem to on the defensive more than not on this subject. They always have to make the attempt to make sure everyone knows how patriotic they are.

I'm not going to comment much on Gen (ret) Wesley Clark's insults, which is really what they were. All they are trying to do is a feeble attempt to invalidate John McCain's military service. Good luck on that one. It may backfire.

But a lot of Democrats really don't like the military. Just look at their behavior over the war in Iraq (or any conflict we've been involved in during the last 50 years. For another recent comment by one of our distinguished members of Congress, check out Sen. Harkin here at Cassy Fiano's blog. (And I'm sure if you Google it, you'll find a lot more).

A lot of liberals just can't get patriotism, military service, or national security in the proper perspective.

I wrote this article in late 2006 about this subject. It's quite long, but I believe it provides some background on this subject.

Is patriotism morally dangerous?

(12/5/2006) -- Patriotism these days, as a word and concept, is brandished as both a thing to want and need, but also a thing to avoid. "I'm not questioning your patriotism," is heard a lot when one questions another's position on national security, the war on terror and other issues in the current debate. And of course, many will say, "Don't question my patriotism." These types of comments are heard often, especially during election campaigns.

This all comes to mind after the recent resignation of John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Is he a patriot, or the disaster for American foreign policy the left claims? It all comes down to whether you are a patriot or not, as patriot is defined by most common dictionaries.

In its simplest terms, patriotism is a "love of or devotion to one's country." Other definitions include the "willingness to sacrifice for it," and "national loyalty."

A synonym for patriotism is nationalism, defined as "devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation, the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals."

Two antonyms for nationalism are multiculturalism -- the doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can co-exist peacefully and equitably in a single country -- and internationalism -- the doctrine that nations should cooperate because their common interests are more important than their differences.

Under these definitions, John Bolton is a patriot, because he always puts America's interest first, above those of other countries or the United Nations has a whole. And yet, he earned respect from his fellow diplomats, as Reuter's AlertNet reports:

Bolton came to the job with a reputation for an abrasive style. But he defied many of his critics by being the only U.N. Security Council ambassador available to the press almost every day, answering countless questions and often delivering punchy sound bites that drowned out staid comments from Washington. "It is to me really disappointing to see Ambassador Bolton go," said Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima.

"He has been an exceptionally skillful diplomat at the United Nations at a time when it faced very challenging issues like reform."

"In the Security Council John Bolton was spearheading a number of important issues," Oshima said, singling out a resolution to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, where "he really spearheaded this effort to get a Security Council resolution adopted in a very speedy manner."

Even the French and Chinese don't have a problem like the left do:

"He is serious about the American objectives here in reforming the United Nations, and he pushed hard," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters. "But of course sometimes in order to achieve the objective you have to work together with others."

"His style is different. He is hard-working," Wang said. "He knows the job."

Bolton also had difficulties with European ambassadors, who should have been his closest allies. But he worked intensively with France on a cease-fire resolution, 1701, to halt the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon this summer.

"I would say we have always respected each other and we were able to work together, especially on 1701," said France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere.

Many on the left claim that being truly patriotic can also be demonstrated by dissent or disagreement. If you love your country, then you should be willing to disagree and stand up for what you think is right. As John Collins puts it on his patriotism web site: "It is NOT unpatriotic to provide constructive criticism on policies that you disagree with." The key here is constructive criticism, not violence or illegal activities.

But when a majority of Americans vote, either in a popular election or through their elected representatives, for a certain course of action, if you work against attaining the desired goals of the majority then you cannot be called a patriot. You can disagree, but if you use anything other than the rule of law under the Constitution to get your way, you are not a patriot.

And yet when the New York Times publishes national secrets during wartime, it claims to do so out of patriotism. When our elite scholars -- and news media -- preach anti-Americanism and call the commander-in-chief the biggest terrorist in the world, they claim to do so out of a sense of patriotism. This claim of patriotism is incorrect. These types of beliefs and actions come from a belief in the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large, rather than with their own country.

Samuel P. Huntington, a professor at Harvard, wrote in 2004 , "this proclivity flourished in the academic world in the 1990s. He cites professor Martha Nussbaum of the University of Chicago as denouncing "patriotic pride" as "morally dangerous," urging the ethical superiority of internationalism over patriotism, and argued that people should direct their "allegiance" to the "worldwide community of human beings." (Boston Review, 1994)

Professor Amy Gutmann, now the president of the University of Pennsylvania, argued that is was "repugnant" for American students to learn that they are, "above all, citizens of the United States." Gutmann recently posed at a Halloween party with a student dressed as a suicide bomber, though she later claimed was offensive to her. However, Gutmann believes that the "primary allegiance" of Americans "should not be to the United States or to some other politically sovereign community," but to "democratic humanism."

Professor Richard Sennet of New York University denounced "the evil of a shared national identity and judged the erosion of national identity as "basically a positive phenomenon."

And then Professor George Lipsitz of the University of California, San Diego, wrote "in recent years refuge in patriotism has been the first resort of scoundrels of all sorts."

I could continue with many more examples of our American "scholars," but be assured that this type of thinking -- and teaching to students -- is prevalent throughout our educational systems. It should be no surprise then that our national media, which are trained in our universities, should be of the same vein.

As the Media Research Center found:

The debate is not about whether reporters can challenge a president and his policies during a time of war. Of course they can. But the networks have chosen to highlight the complaints of those who paint the Bush administration as a danger equal to or greater than the terrorists themselves. Reporters could have spent the past five years challenging the administration with an agenda most Americans share, demanding that the government do everything within its lawful powers to protect the public and prevent another attack. Instead, liberal reporters have opted to join the ACLU in fretting that the War on Terror has already gone too far.

When you view the behavior of the media, such as the New York Times, or CNN, which recently aired a video of Iraqi insurgents (terrorists) killing a U.S. soldier, it is hard to defend their claim of objectivity and patriotism.

Victor Dale Hansen, a professor at Fresno State University, writing about the need for civic education, says:

"How, then, can we recreate civic education to help unite an increasingly fragmented society? We must reject the new cultural relativism, situation ethics and arrogant utopianism that have escaped from the university and circulate like an airborne toxin in the popular culture. Scholars must stop teaching nonsense like the idea that Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, important though they were, affected American history more profoundly than John Adams or Alexander Hamilton, or that gansta rap is essentially no less musical than Beethoven. Rather than blame the United States for persistent imperfection, our educators should emphasize how far we have come in eradicating sins that seem intractable to much of humankind elsewhere."

Even liberal Richard Dreyfuss has concluded that our education system lacks civics education. When he was a child, Dreyfuss said, civics classes taught not only the checks and balances in government but also the reasons behind the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Huntington has concluded that the "prevalence of anti-patriotic attitudes among liberal intellectuals lead some of them to warn their fellow liberals of the consequences of such attitudes for the future not of America, but of American liberalism."

He quotes professor Richard Rorty, a leading liberal philosopher, as writing that these leftists "have done a great deal of good for...women, African-Americans, gay men and lesbians...But there is a problem with this left: it is unpatriotic."
For America's 1990s elite transnationals, however, nationalism was evil, national identity suspect, and patriotism passe," Huntington observed. Yet, journalists such as Strobe Talbott, then a writer for Time in 1992, looked forward to a future when "nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single global authority." Talbott then joined the Clinton administration as a top official directing foreign policy of the American nation he hoped would become obsolete.

But nationalism is alive and well. Huge majorities of Americans claim to be patriotic, with some polls putting this as high as 96 percent. (Though I assume that even those cited above would call themselves "patriotic" for political ends.)

Victor Ferkiss, a professor at Georgetown University, wrote in the early 1970s in favor of patriotism, even though he was promoting ecological humanism, part of which has a foundation in global interdependence. "The ancient virtue of patriotism needs to be remembered and fostered...A society based on the principles of ecological humanism will be a society not of egoistic individuals but of patriots -- on in which citizens are brought up to love the native land, to cherish its beauties, its past and its life processes...which gives its members their existence and identity and which sustains and enhances their life within its own."

If you truly believe the American Way of Life is exceptional -- not perfect, but a work in progress -- then you can't support elites in this country who espouse principles that are anti-American. Many do this in their own self-interest. But if America is to survive, we will not only have to live in the world as it really is, but we'll have to remain a sovereign nation, first and foremost.

Just as John Bolton has earned the respect he deserves from most of his colleagues by being true to his roots and standing quietly, yet firmly, can we begin to work together as a nation, and begin to work constructively with other nations to improve the world overall.

1 comment:

Tom the Redhunter said...

"...a lot of Democrats really don't like the military."

Yup. Libs see our troops as either cold-blooded killers, or victims.

Somewhat contradictory, so let me explain.

Cold-blooded killers - Every time there's even an allegation that one or more of our troops did something wrong they're all over it. Murtha and Haditha is a prime example. They also love their Iraqi civilian casualty counts, and treat studies like the Lancet one as it was holy gospel.

Victims - They use the wounded to bash the Bush Administration, the war, and Republicans in general. They trumpet PSTD, always say we're underfunding VA hospitals, on and on. No amount of money is ever enough. The troops as basically pawns that they use to advance their political goals.