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December 12, 2004

On Patriotism

Elizabeth Anderson: December 12, 2004

Perhaps the most politically damaging smear against the Left is that we lack patriotism.  The smear has its origins in McCarthyism, but really took off during the Vietnam War, when the Left turned against the war.  I don't deny that certain elements of the Left bring the charge against themselves, by eagerly imputing to the United States the most nefarious motives in international affairs, even when the charges are patently ridiculous.  (The latest example is Michael Moore's suggestion that the U.S. went to war against the Taliban in order to get an oil pipeline built across that country.  Only slightly less absurd is the suggestion that the U.S. went into Iraq to seize its oil.)  I do deny that the charge is applicable to liberals in general.  There is a certain understanding of the demands of patriotism with which the Left is uncomfortable--one that insists that the United States can do no injustice to others; that loyal citizens must unequivocally support its foreign policy, especially in matters of war; that advocates pursuing U.S. national interests to the fullest, regardless of the costs inflicted on others.  I believe the Left is right to reject this understanding of patriotism.  But it has done little to explain what should take its place.  The silence only serves to confirm the Right's suspicions that we have no patriotism at all.  Without presuming to speak for all liberals, I want at least to explain how I enact my patriotism.

I love my country, and I am proud of it.  How do I convey these feelings to my two elementary school children?  This summer, my husband and I took them to New York City. Why do we love New York City, this bluest of blue metropolitan areas, as the embodiment of what is so great about America?  And how did we show its glory to our kids?

We took them to the top of the Empire State Building and showed them the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other great architectural wonders of New York, telling them the stories of how they were built.  We took them to museums and plays.  New York architecture and drama embodies the city's, and America's, first great virtue:  it unabashedly strives for excellence at nearly everything it does.  Moreover, in a vast range of human endeavors--athletics, the arts, dance, music, drama, museums, finance, publishing, trade, higher education, architecture, medicine, and much, much more--it succeeds, in a thrilling, exuberant way.  Give me the pursuit of excellence over "self-esteem" any day.  New York overwhelms the rest of the country and indeed the world in its sheer concentration of talent, combined with unrivaled opportunities to excercise it.

We took them to Chinatown.  Those bustling streets, bursting with entreprenurial energy, great food, and wonderful Asian goods on sale, show best what it means for America to be the Land of Opportunity, not just for native-born Americans but for millions of immigrants from distant lands.  Our willingness to welcome them, learn from them, and readily accept them as equal citizens when they naturalize, is exemplified to the highest degree here.

We took them to Central Park, every day exploring another delightful and surprising corner of this greatest of urban public parks.  Fully restored and enhanced to great glory, it is a far cry from its dismal state in the 1970s, when it was a decrepit haven for drug dealers.  Now families don't hesitate to take their children there to play.  There is no more vivid sign of the spectacular revival of New York City than this (except perhaps for the clean, grafitti-free subways).  The new reign of civility--and yes, I do give former Mayor Giuliani credit for this--while still a bit rough around the edges, is breathtaking.  To illustrate: one evening the family emerged on the north end of Central Park, on 110th Street, a neighborhood in sad decline, with abandoned buildings facing the Park.  Ahead of us, a tough-looking man was sitting on a bench, swearing in a voice just loud enough to overhear.  As soon as he saw us, he apologized--profusely!

I could go on and on.  But there are enough points here to offer lessons to both Left and Right.  To the Left:  Chinatown shows how free trade in goods and free movement of people are inextricable from the free exchange of ideas and willingness to learn from and welcome them, no matter their origin--attitudes that lie at the core of the cosmopolitan ideal.  It also forces us to acknowledge the special cultural conditions needed to foster "diversity" at its best.  Not every national culture is as good as the U.S. at opening itself up to immigrants from so many lands and enabling them to become fully "us" (and this is not to say that we are all that great in other regions of the U.S., or with respect to certain immigrant groups).  To promote the cosmopolitanism we love, we need to treasure the local conditions for its flourishing, and this requires robust support for and love of America itself.  We also have to acknowledge that former Mayor Giuliani brought spectacular benefits to the city by insisting not just on a crackdown on crime, but on restoring order and civility to the streets, without which people cannot raise families in the city, nor enjoy the great diversity it offers, but will rather retreat behind closed doors and ethnic enclaves hostile to outsiders.  (This is not to deny the costs of Giuliani's crackdown.)  Cosmopolitanism needs patriotism to survive.

To the Right: New York City shows how much excellence and opportunity need Big Government to flourish.  The greatness of New York City in both excellence and opportunity depends in large measure on its extraordinary population density.  This requires an enormous public infrastructure.  Before the subways were built, nearly the whole population of the city was stuffed in the lower end of Manhattan.  Population and economic growth exploded with the expansion of mass public transportation.  Big Regulation is needed, too.  The city's stunning skyscraper density was made possible by zoning laws, which forced buiders to set back their towers as they scaled greater heights, lest the shadows cast by tall buildings deter urban development in neighboring blocks.  And so are Big Taxes, to support all the infrastructure and regulation.

So, how else does this patriotic American express her love and support for her country?  By gladly paying her taxes, and not resenting a single penny I pay.  I want to keep America great, and that requires great public expenditure.  I love my fellow Americans, and that love demands that I do my part to ensure that none of us is deprived of the considerable goods we need to function as equal citizens in a rich democracy.  (It helps that anyone at my household income level or above--i.e., close to the point where Kerry proposed to raise them--who is managing their finances responsibly should feel little pain even from sharply higher taxes, because the money should be just piling up anyway.)  I call on all my fellow patriots, at least at my household income or above, to share this love for our country and repeat: no resentment of taxes. not. one. penny.

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» On Patriotism from Dean's World

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» Patriotism from Meandering Vaguely Around Timnah
In response to a Left2Right post, I thought it would be an idea to stick some of my thoughts on Patriotism and all that goes with it down on digital paper. [Read More]

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» More on MoveOn from De Rerum Natura
The intriguing Left2Right blog has an interesting post about patriotism, which mentions the damage done by Michael Moore. It's an interesting post and interesting discussion not the least because it actually engages the issues substantively. [Read More]

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» The Democrat Miracle from Hennessy's View
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» Patriotism from The Cardinal Collective
Elizabeth Anderson, at Left2Right, has a wonderful post about patriotism, leading to a point that I generally agree with: the best way to show your patriotism is to be willing to pay taxes. We can and should speak out against... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 7:19:20 PM

Comments

Posted by: hr

Well, let me first say that I don't think any reasonable person could question Ms. Anderson's patriotism.

Indeed, I find the whole "who's patriotic" thing to be an unfortunate diversion from real issues. And (I admit this is only an impression) I often find it arises more from a reflexive defensivness on the left about the issue rather that actual accusals of lack of patriotism from the right. And I don't think questioning the Democratic Party's foreign policy toughness credentials amounts to a charge against one's patriotism. Indeed, the only people I can remember using words like "unpatriotic" or "unamerican" recently were on the Democrat presidential ticket.

That aside, I thought your essay was wonderful (and almost inspiring) until about here: "New York City shows how much excellence and opportunity need Big Government to flourish"

First, I think we could reasonably posit NYC as something of an atypical case. Second, I find it hard to believe that NYC would be a second-rate city if not for big government. I would be willing to accept that bigger govenment might help out, even significantly, in a place like NYC, but that NYC could not flourish without it? I find that hard to believe and far from obvious.

Then, you really lost me here: "how else does this patriotic American express her love and support for her country? By gladly paying her taxes, and not resenting a single penny I pay. I want to keep America great, and that requires great public expenditure. I love my fellow Americans, and that love demands that I do my part to ensure that none of us is deprived of the considerable goods we need to function as equal citizens in a rich democracy...I call on all my fellow patriots, at least at my household income or above, to share this love for our country and repeat: no resentment of taxes. not. one. penny."

I take it this was meant to be somewhat facetious, but you've just turned the patriotism thing around on conservatives in the context of domestic policy. Patriotism has anything to do with not resenting a particular level of taxation or supporting a certain sized welfare state? Does it cease to be unpatriotic to complain about taxes when they reach 40%, 50%, 75%?

Also, just what are "the considerable goods" each of us needs to be considered equal democratic citizens? I thought that had more to do with equality before the law.

I would also note the oft-overlooked possibility that those of us on the anti-big government side might care deeply about the less fortunate, but disagree that welfare state programs help them or that the only choice is between government programs or uncaring Scroogism.

Finally, speaking as someone in a lower tax bracket than yours, how does one establish a uniform standard (or presume to know) where one should not feel pain at certain levels of finacial loss, such that it is almost unpatriotic to voice a negative opinon about that loss?

Posted by: hr | Dec 12, 2004 3:19:08 AM


Posted by: John F. Opie

Hi -

Intriguing post by Elizabeth, but one question: where do you get your definition of patriotism? You state:

"that loyal citizens must unequivocally support its foreign policy, especially in matters of war; that advocates pursuing U.S. national interests to the fullest, regardless of the costs inflicted on others."

and I don't see a definition of patriotism there. The classic dictionary definition is love of one's country, plus the willingness to sacrifice for it.

What you don't like is dogmatic loyalty. Fine with me: I don't like it either.

The problem that the left has is that there are a lot of folks out there who see statements and actions by the left - I know the left isn't monolithic, but it sure looks like that from the outside sometimes - seem to speak directly against loving your country and more to loathing it.

And when does the left start to adress the problem of anti-patriotism? Of not loving but loathing the country? There have been a number of incidents recently where in the pursuit of making political points the by-product of the effort has harmed the country, not helped it. This is perhaps the litmus test of patriotism: when you know something that could harm the country, but decide to deal with it off camera, instead of rubbing it in everyone's faces.

John

Posted by: John F. Opie | Dec 12, 2004 3:41:17 AM


Posted by: Andromeda

The thing is, that even though most Democrats and liberals may be the patriotic "loyal opposition", there is an obvious segment of the Left which is not. "Liberals" (for lack of a better word) seem to be evasive about these elements, sometime claiming that they are irrelevant, or that they don't exist, sometimes appearing to excuse or apologize for them. Sometimes seeming to subtly imply agreement with them.

Unfortunately, these people do real harm to America's national security, both by undermining it's position in the world and by spreading around anti-American rhetoric that incites violence against the United States. For instance, in the same way that Al Jazeera has been inciting violence in Iraq by broadcasting slanted news coverage.

The anti-globalization movement is filled with rhetoric that portays America's support for free trade (a position supported by the vast majority of economists), as a plot by "multinational corporations" to exploit the poor in the third world.

Meanwhile, the anti-war movement frequently equates the unintentional deaths of civilians in precision airstrikes with "terrorism", implying that the tactics of Al Qaeda are morally equal to American warfare tactics (some do more than imply). That rhetoric is broadcast throughout the Arab world and is used to rationalize support for terrorism and continuing instability in Iraq.

The international left, including some in America, also have allied themselves with conservative Islamist groups, mainly in the anti-war movement. It is obvious that they want to see America unseated as the world's superpower, and are willing to tacitly ally themselves with terrorists to do so. I personally think that many have been so poisoned by the anti-American rhetoric of the left in the anti-war movement and anti-globalization movement that they have convinced themselves that the US is in fact morally equivalent to a terrorist state, thus justifying their tacit support for almost any barbarity commited by terrorists. (i.e. beheading hostages on tape).

I've yet to see any significant effort by Democratic or liberal organizations to distance themselves from these elements. Furthermore, there does not appear to be a clear dividing line between the hard-left in the anti-globalization movement and liberal activist groups. Rather, they seem to be closely allied with eachother on numerous issues. Consequently, it is not obvious from the "outside" view that the liberal-Democratic base doesn't share the sympathies of these groups.

One problem may be that many Democrats are simply unaware of some of the more extreme rhetoric of groups they are cooperating with. For example, I found that many Democratic fans for Farenheit 9/11 had never heard about Michael Moores famous characterization of Iraqi insurgents as "Minutemen" or his opposition to the war in Afghanistan. It may be that mainstream Democrats simply DON'T KNOW about much of the rhetoric emanating from the left. But I feel this is a serious problem. There seems to be a kind of collective willful amnesia on the part of liberals when it comes to the left. They're willing to sort of pretend not to see some of the things that are going on over there because they think it is politically helpful to pick and choose from the rhetoric of the far left when it suits them, and to ignore it, dismiss them as fringe elements, or pretend they don't exist when it doesn't.


Posted by: Andromeda | Dec 12, 2004 3:58:02 AM


Posted by: jonathon martin

I'm in no position to speak about American patriotism, being a European. Interestingly though, the people who are not especially patriotic in academia in Europe in my experience often give as their reason that the concept is not entirely coherent. That is to say that being proud of something for which you are not responsible doesn't make a huge amount of sense and it can cloud one's judgment with regards the actions of your government.

It also appears from this European's perspective that the scepticism shown by Europeans towards their governments in both the media and the populace at large is a healthy thing. We would not have our media apologise for failing to question the government in the run up to a war as the New York Times had to do.

I am aware though that much partiotism in the US comes from the idea of the country as founded on unimpeachable values. I find it far easier to understand pride in values than being proud of big buildings and so on. That pride though, should turn to disappointment and anger when those values are not being lived up to and blindly following a leader and refusing to question him out of a misplaced sense of loyalty is a destructive patriotism.

Posted by: jonathon martin | Dec 12, 2004 4:32:46 AM


Posted by: Dean Esmay

One of the things that I've noticed is that I seem (from where I sit) to see the left objecting to having their patriotism questioned a good bit more often than anyone actually quesions their patriotism.

On the other hand, I have to admit that there are people on the left whose patriotism I question, as well as people on the right.

To the specific matter of foreign policy: where I will generally question someone's patriotism is when I see them dogmatically attacking, in kneejerk and almost automatic fashion, anything and everything our leaders do, without ever offering clear alternative policies that they would prefer. Merely snearing at what someone else is doing while refusing to offer constructive suggestions or alternatives is very childish and selfish behavior, most particularly when there are troops at war. Because to me that comes off as backbiting and partisan pettifoggery and (apparently) designed to do nothing but sow disunity.

Ditto when people engage in hindsight and say that obviously our efforts abroad are screwed up when they weren't there making any suggestions of what to do better in the first place. More than once I questioned (to myself, never aloud during the campaign) John Kerry's patriotism, for all the times that he said that our efforts in Iraq were completely screwed up, mismanaged, "mis-lead" and so on--but whenever pressed for how he would have done things differently he could and would never say what he would have done differently, nor could I ever find him on record in the runup to the war or the opening months of the war out there saying, "No, the President is doing this wrong, he should be doing this instead." Instead it was just accusations of incompetenece, dishonesty, etc. etc. all while our brave fighting men and women were busy actually on the ground fighting and sometimes dying over there.

It struck me as extraordinarily selfish. I wouldn't say it aloud because I didn't want to go on record as saying John Kerry was unAmerican because he might just win and, if he did, I would have done my best to support him and, if I had criticisms of what he did, I would always be careful to say not just what I thought he was doing wrong, but what I thought the right thing to do instead was--and then wish him luck and hope he was right and I was wrong.

To me that's patriotic dissent. Simple criticism isn't enough in my view; anyone who's had a parent, a spouse, a boss, or someone else in their life who could do nothing but criticize and find fault and never had a word of constructive criticism knows what this feels like. It's just plain terrible behavior.

But thoughtful dissent and criticism I've never had a problem with.

So let me put this to you: to question someone's patriotism is not unAmerican, and it is not an assault on the 1st amendment. Indeed, questioning someone's patriotism is very in keeping with the 1st amendment. My freedom to say, "Your words and actions are offensive and unpatriotic" is as sacrosanct as your right to say "the President mis-lead us into an unnecessary war, bring the troops home now!" And if your patriotism is questioned, should your proper response be, "How dare you question me?" Or should it be, "Hmm, maybe I am acting rather badly?"

There also used to be an old-fashioned attitude that seemed to fly out the window these last couple of years: "I disagreed with this war but now that we're in it I want to do what I can to help us win it as quickly and decisively as possible--and here's what I'm going to do to try to make it happen."

I help run a charity that sends toys and medical supplies to troops in Iraq to distribute to children over there. We've gotten hundreds of thousands in donations and in toys and supplies shipped over there--but it's stunning how seldom we can get anyone on the political left to help us in our efforts. Here our troops are trying to make a positive difference in the lives of everyday Iraqis, and yet we've actually had people on the left criticize and condemn what we're doing.

I don't see what's wrong with labeling that kind of behavior as unpatriotic. I just don't. Ditto when a guy like Tom Hayden actually proposes that the left do whatever it can to cause America to lose in Iraq--how can you not call that unpatriotic?

So sometimes, when I see someone angrily objecting to having their patriotism questioned, I often find myself wondering, "Hmm. Struck a nerve there, did they?"

But let me also put this to you: It is my view that there are people on the right whose patriotism needs to be questioned a lot more often. The kind of people who follow the "Christian Identity" movement are obviously unpatriotic. David Duke is obviously unpatriotic. Those on the right OR left who want to secede from the Union are obviously unpatriotic. But even further: the kind of people who speak of American popular culture as a cesspool of filth and degradation strike me as unpatriotic--we make wonderful movies, wonderful television shows, fabulous music, and yet some conservatives sit around talking about how we're all "slouching toward Gomorrah." Balderdash! We're a vibrant, shining culture, certainly not perfect but with much to praise and be proud of.

People on the left and right who sit around grunting about how stupid, illiterate, selfish, etc. most Americans are are showing a deep contempt for their countrymen and thus their country itself. Isn't that unpatriotic in your view? It is in mine.

Posted by: Dean Esmay | Dec 12, 2004 4:38:39 AM


Posted by: Dallas

I love my country, and I am proud of it. How do I convey these feelings to my two elementary school children? This summer, my husband and I took them to New York City. Why do we love New York City, this bluest of blue metropolitan areas, as the embodiment of what is so great about America?

Anderson,

I cannot recall ever seeing a more glaring example of the depth and width of the Grand Canyon separating the Blue states from the Red states.

I would like to suggest that, next summer, you take your children to Yorktown, or to Antietam, or to West Point, or to Annapolis, or to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or some other place that truly embodies patriotism.

Posted by: Dallas | Dec 12, 2004 4:51:29 AM


Posted by: sortapundit

If you'll allow me to indulge in a little nepotism for a moment, my brother has an interesting post titled Thoughts on Patiotism - with the addendum For King and Country - up at his site, for additional reading.

Posted by: sortapundit | Dec 12, 2004 5:28:18 AM


Posted by: Dean Esmay

I can't quite say I see it Dallas' way. Although I think appreciating the sacrifice and valor of those who came before us who helped make America what it was, pride in our nation's great achievements in science, medicine, agriculture, architecture, and so on is surely an expression of patriotism.

For all that I bang on Hollywood, I am also proud of many of the great advances in the art of film making, and many of the great, immortal films it has given us--from Citizen Kane to Singin' In The Rain to Star Wars to The Shawshank Redemption to.... you get the gist (even if you don't agree on my film choices per se).

America: it's rock'n'roll, it's country and blues and jazz and soul, it's cowboy boots and bronx cheers and the Sears Tower and the airplane and... God when you just think about so many great, great things in this country how can you not feel proud of it even if there are things you don't like about it?

Posted by: Dean Esmay | Dec 12, 2004 6:29:49 AM


Posted by: J. Peden

Patriotism "... that advocates pursuing U.S. national interests to the fullest, regardless of the costs inflicted on others." Elizabeth

Who advocates this? The idea is pernicious, a statement of an ethic no one would agree with, but often imputed to Bush, Capitalists, or anyone the Left wants to tar as evil. Please!

Converting "patriotism" into paying taxes? I smell a tithing complex at work, to wit, if I just give enough money, I have bought my own salvation, or done my bit. [sp? tithe]

I can't tell you how obvious this is, as I've been noticing it for years in regard to supporting causes as a substitute for personal action on the matter, especially missionary environmentalism and "helping the poor".

In the case of taxes, Government becomes God, and Gov't spending the path to salvation.

Another hint here, Government spending is a very poor way to create wealth. Only capitalism does this to any significant extent. It would be more patriotic to support capitalism, imho.

Posted by: J. Peden | Dec 12, 2004 6:43:01 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

There are observations I'd like to make on the topic, but I find myself completely distracted (and amused) by the idea of Chinatown as an example of the greatness of America. There are Chinatowns in cities all over the world, and it's hard to see them as an example of anything but the resilience and natural capitalist inclinations of the Chinese.

I mean, Shantytown and Darktown haven't work out all that well, have they?

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 12, 2004 7:48:41 AM


Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti

I think that the primary reason that the left is vulnerable to charges that it is, on the whole, unpatriotic lies in the fact that the very far left has historically been anti-American, and the moderate left has often suffered from what has been described as a "no enemy to the left" psychology that has prevented the moderate left from condemning the extreme left and making it clear they have no place in a democratic left.

Historical perspective is essential here. You mention an origin in McCarthyism, which is the left's standard bugbear with regard to the right's charges against the left. A few points need to be considered here. First, there really was a Soviet state trying to subert the United States and the other western countries. And, we now know, thanks to revelations from the Soviet archives, that people like Hiss and the Rosenbergs really were Soviet agents. So, while it may be arguable that the right went too far in its anti-communist zeal, there really were people out there trying to harm us. Even paranoids may have enemies. Suspicion of the patriotism of much of the moderate left in this period was, I would argue, a result of the moderate left's embrace of extreme left and its refusal to cast out the truly unpatriotic. To use a popular cliche, lie down with dogs and you're going to get fleas.

Some elements of the moderate left at that time did indeed oppose the communists, one thinks of the origins of the Americans for Democratic Action and the bulk of the Congressional Democrats in the '40's and 50's. No one would have questioned the patriotism of John Kennedy or Hubert Humphrey.

This changed with the opposition to the Vietnam war. What began as protests organized by the more extreme elements of the old left, and the New Left, ended up as the policy of the Democratic Party by the 1972 election.

When someone says to me opposition to the Vietnam War was not unpatriotic, my response is "what sort of opposition?" It's certainly permissible to honestly disagree on policy. The question there is a matter of judgment, not necessarily of patriotism. However, chants -- which all of us who witnessed or participated in anti-war rallies heard -- of "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Min, the NLF is Gonna Win!" and the disply of North Vietnamese flags are unpatriotic. Attacking our troops as babykillers is unpatriotic.

Those chants, the North Vietnamese flags, and Jane Fonda sitting at a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun stick in ordinary peoples' minds, perhaps subconsciously, long after the participants have grown into adulthood and middle age.

Others have commented on the same phenomenon with respect to opposition to the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War, so I will confine my comment to a symbolic point I haven't seen mentioned. At an anti-war rally in San Francisco, there was a banner prominently displayed that had wide circulation on the internet: We Support Our Troops ... When the Shoot their Officers. That, my friends, is unpatriotic. Again, we don't see the moderate and academic left dissociating itself from these views, or from views such as those of the Columbia professor who wished for a million Mogadishus. Silence in the face of that sort of thing is going to lead people to conclude you agree with the sentiments, or at least don't disagree.

For myself, I distinguish between those on the left I consider unpatriotic -- such as the Alger Hisses, those wanted an NLF victory, and people like Michael Moore and others who advocate military mutiny and want to see America hobbled, and the rest of the left. I really don't see any possiblity of communication with the first category. The second group, which I take to be represented here, seem to me sincere enough and often thoughtful. What I, and I think many others on the "right" question in the moderate left, (which would include mainstream Democrats who opposed Reagan's approach to the Cold War, and have generally favored cuts to the military and its procurement) is more their judgement than their patriotism.

Posted by: Rob Perelli-Minetti | Dec 12, 2004 8:17:17 AM


Posted by: Lena Carr

It has been my experience that "patriot" is - for those on both the left and right that I have spoken with - the assumed *default* position. One is assumed to love the country, her ideals and her values, and appreciate the riches one has, just by being a citizen, until proven otherwise.

One's patriotism is rarely questioned out of the blue - every time I have seen it happen (as it happened ever so many times this past election season) it has followed some action on the part of one person that could give a second reason to question the first's motives; be that action a statement equating the US with some terrorist organization or state, or an appearance of concern with individual wealth over the good of the nation.

Re: defining acts of patriotism - I find it interesting that little mention of personnal service to the country is mentioned. Yes, Rudy Giuliani did a great deal, but his leadership was not the only contribution required to make (and keep) NYC a safe and wonderful place to raise a family.

Instead of highlighting the very individual involvement of civil service (police, city leadership, inspectors and firemen), or that of military service to the nation as a whole, Ms Anderson points at the act of speaking support for government actions (no matter the wisdom of those actions) and the act of paying taxes (no matter the wisdom of the actions paid for by those taxes.) In a country where the taxes are (compared to the EU) rather low, and the freedom to speak ones mind protected by law, neither action strikes me as demonstrating a great deal of commitment.

As regards the point about taxes - many conservatives come from a pov that nearly all government actions on or for the governed are going to be invasive and interfer with the people's daily lives, even when providing needed services. By taxpayers resenting the hell out of every penny of taxes, the government is forced to work within a budget, and therefore must limit its interference to only those most essential projects.

Which projects are essential, of course, is a subject of debate.

Posted by: Lena Carr | Dec 12, 2004 8:20:14 AM


Posted by: Robb Lutton

I love this country, but I think the freedom riders of the sixties who voluntarily put their lives on the line to fight for freedom were bigger heroes than GI's who were drafted to fight for nothing much in Vietnam. This is the divide between right and left.

Of course we on the left love America. We love it best when it lives up to its ideals and hate the tendency to crush those ideals here and overseas. We think it helps not hurts when we criticise bad actions.

The right doesn't like to talk about the fuckups and the evil that we have done and continue to do. Lets hear from those of you on the right who think (just to give one example) the US sponsored terrorism against Cuba and Nicaragua was a good idea. Most honest people on both sides of the the debate think it was bad, but rightwingers say something like; "lets don't wash our dirty laundery in public".

Unfortunately that only lets the bad guys off the hook. Like it or not we (and only we here in the US) can do anything about our own evil doers. That is our responsibility to the rest of the world.

Posted by: Robb Lutton | Dec 12, 2004 9:16:03 AM


Posted by: atrain

The latest example is Michael Moore's suggestion that the U.S. went to war against the Taliban in order to get an oil pipeline built across that country. Only slightly less absurd is the suggestion that the U.S. went into Iraq to seize its oil.

Yeah Elizabeth, everyone who is not absurd realizes that these factors had nothing to do with our policy decisions.

Posted by: atrain | Dec 12, 2004 9:57:44 AM


Posted by: a-train

BTW ... What is so great about patriotism? Why is this so important? What would happen if people were not patriotic?

Is it better to love, respect and care about an abstract idea like a "nation" or your family, neighbors and fellow humans? What is the problem with 'one world under God'?

Posted by: a-train | Dec 12, 2004 10:04:13 AM


Posted by: cas

..."who think (just to give one example) the US sponsored terrorism against Cuba and Nicaragua was a good idea."
I'm sorry Robb, I must show my ignorance...exactly WHAT acts of terrorism are you speaking of? And how are you so SURE that they were "US-backed?"

...What is so great about patriotism? Why is this so important? What would happen if people were not patriotic?
If you HATE your country, what are doing constructively to change it? How does the idea "one world under God" help to solve the problems you perceive in your country that make you unable to show pride in your country, and those whose sacrifice themselves in her name?

Posted by: cas | Dec 12, 2004 10:11:59 AM


Posted by: Eddie Gilchrist

It is not that the left "lacks patriotism." It is the perceived willingness of the left to subordinate your support of the kids - who are always the ones called on to die - for your political agenda. Look, I am against the Iraq war, and have been from the beginning. I think we should mind our own business and get out of all 145+ countries where we have our military stationed.

In that sense, I am with most of the left. What I despise and abhor about the left is their willingness to impute the most horrific and despicable aims to the ones who start a war they disagree with. The willingness to tolerate turn a blind eye to, and even support the most execrable accusations against their political opponents makes Richard Nixon look like a piker by comparison.

It makes the left supporters of sons of bitches like Oliver Stone, the Winter Soldier conference, and films like "Apocalyse Now" that portray our soldiers as drug crazed maniacal murderers. Of course, Michael Moore, the patron saint of lying assholes everywhere, has become a "spokesman" for the left. In short, political power is the ultimate goal of the left and they are willing to lie, fabricate documents(!), smear, and paint their opponents as demons from hell, and most importantly, TO WILLINGLY BELIEVE PATENT LIES, if it is perceived as an avenue to that political power.

I can only descibe this as a moral plague, and say that until the left is willing to purge itself, I will will join the right in dancing on their political graves.

Posted by: Eddie Gilchrist | Dec 12, 2004 10:17:51 AM


Posted by: David Velleman

Notice the number of comments that run like this: "Yes, but what about the other liberals who ... .?" Liz has written a stirring and stimulating essay on patriotism, and several commenters respond by saying, in effect, "Let's talk about Jane Fonda instead." No, let's not talk about Jane Fonda. Liz herself has criticized the Left for "eagerly imputing to the United States the most nefarious motives in international affairs, even when the charges are patently ridiculous", and she has challenged the Left to support law-enforcement efforts such as those of Mayor Giuliani. Pointing to other liberals who are less reasonable than Liz is just changing the subject.

Liz has challenged the Right to acknowledge that much of what is great about this country would be impossible without a strong infrastructure of public goods: she mentions public transportation and zoning, but obviously the list is much longer. Central Park, which she describes so beautifully, is not a commercial theme park: it's a public facility, maintained by taxes. Liz asks, Shouldn't we be proud to pay the taxes that maintain Central Park? How can we claim to be patriots if we complain about contributing our share to what makes the country great?

The answer to this question is not "Yeah, but what about that Jane Fonda?"

Posted by: David Velleman | Dec 12, 2004 10:46:29 AM


Posted by: Daniel

G.K. Chesterton's position, with which I agree, is that the only person to be trusted to change a thing (a person, a place, etc.) is a person who loves that thing. To illustrate: which would you rather have as a teacher for your children, one who loves your child, or one who hates your child? And if competence is an issue, is it not easier to raise competence than change hate to love? Who wants to hear that old saying by the surgeon for whom the patient isn't real: the operation was a success but the patient died.

It is for that reason that patriotism is important for me. I can't trust those who hate this country when they say they want to change it.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 12, 2004 11:04:08 AM


Posted by: David Velleman

Chesterton's position has an obvious corollary: wanting to change a thing is not necessarily a sign of hating it. Parents want to make their children better, teachers want to make their students better, but these desires are expressions of love, not hate. Wanting to make one's country better can be an expression of patriotism.

Posted by: David Velleman | Dec 12, 2004 11:10:54 AM


Posted by: Tony

Ever heard of the Venona Project? While most of what McCarthy did later was despicable, his early warning about communists was on target. Check out the declassified intercepts in the project earlier mentioned. The leftist reactionaries (not liberals) use McCarthy as an excuse. I am a soldier and a 'classic' liberal. I support freedom (liberty) for everyone. Don't tell me how to worship, or who to marry; the government should set up just enough laws to keep us from killing each other. Freedom is the best motivator and capitalism is a blurry reflection of that. I've been to Haiti, Iraq and countless other places where people are yearning to be free. I love this country because it isn't perfect but it looks itself in the mirror and asks what it can do better and has CONSISTENTLY extended freedom to more and more of our countrymen and women. NO other country has done that in history (not even the Greek city-states). That is the true calling of the progressive movement to ask what we can do better.

Posted by: Tony | Dec 12, 2004 11:40:20 AM


Posted by: Robb Lutton

To Atrain,

To give one example;

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbosch.htm

This is a short report about Orlando Bosch who blew up a Cuban Airliner with 76 people aboard.

Posted by: Robb Lutton | Dec 12, 2004 11:42:07 AM


Posted by: duus


I am patriotic. I love my country. Moreover, I know what I mean when I say "my country." I mean the people of this country, and the people who are not yet born and won't be for a thousand years. What do you mean by 'the country'? Anyone? What do you love when you love the country? I think this is a large divide between right and left. What does anyone on the right mean by "the country" when they say they love it? I don't really understand.

Posted by: duus | Dec 12, 2004 11:46:24 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Moreover, I know what I mean when I say "my country." I mean the people of this country, and the people who are not yet born and won't be for a thousand years.

I don't understand. How are the people of this country intrinsically different from people in other countries, aside from those who self-selected to come here?

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 12, 2004 11:53:02 AM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Neither the Right nor the Left should accuse the other of being unpatriotic. It's churlish behavior and, on that particular count, I think the Right acts churlishly more often than the Left. Of course, the Left can be more churlish on other points (e.g., accusations of racism), but perhaps that will be another tread.

I don't happen to share Ms Anderson's conclusion that love of country entails love of big government, and I think the Left too often conflates the society and the state. Moreover, I can’t help but suspect that she does resent a penny or two of her taxes here or there when they’re spent on, oh, say, SDI or corporate subsidies or that perennial favorite, waste, fraud and abuse. If I’m wrong, I apologize in advance.

In any case, there is nothing unpatriotic about criticizing one’s country or, especially, one’s government. Believe me, the Right does it all the time. The Right, however, senses that the Left, or at least the far Left, reflexively takes an anti-American position regardless of the circumstances. Whether that is fair or not, it would help lower the rhetorical volume if the non-far Left spoke out more often at the excesses of the likes of Michael Moore even as the non-far Right should denounce the likes of David Duke or Patrick Buchanan.

I would quibble with Mr. Velleman’s final sentence only in that I think wanting to make one’s country better *is* an expression of patriotism. I would hope the Left could understand that it is no less true for those on the Right who seek such change.

(On a semi-churlish final note, I’m happy to hear that the incomes of academicians has risen to the point where the money just piles up. As the father of college age children, my experience has been a bit different, but I’ll certainly pass the good news along to their schools and my alumni associations.)

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Dec 12, 2004 12:20:49 PM


Posted by: Steve Horwitz

To answer David V more directly:

Libertarians like myself can surely concede that having a functioning infrastructure and functioning institutions are crucial to "making America great." The libertarian view is not that such an infrastructure and institutions aren't necessary but whether producing them by the state, particularly in the form of state monopolies, is the best way to get the best infrastructure and institutions. Calling something a "public good" does not mean it must, ipso facto, be produced by the state, and certainly not that it be produced monopolistically by the state.

There are ways that both the market and the institutions of civil society can produce "public goods," and perhaps better than the state does. To then, as Elizabeth did, suggest that anyone who loves their country shouldn't complain about paying taxes to support the infrastructure that makes it great, leaves the very strong implication that those of us who DO complain are somehow being less than "patriotic" becasue, by further implication, we must object to the creation of those necessary public goods.

This is a somewhat weak, but still telling, example of a problem I see that plagues the Left in discussions with conservatives and libertarians: the assumption that the Left monopolizes the moral high ground. It seems that for Elizabeth, the only other position one can take on this issue is to oppose paying taxes and therefore oppose the creation of the public goods in question. I beg to differ. What if one thinks that the state is an inferior process for producing the public goods that we *agree* are important for a "great country?" Isn't that at least a possible position one could take? Can't that position be debated by using theory and historical/empirical evidence? I could be wrong that the state is an inferior means to that end, and I'll gladly discuss the matter, but when the argument is that anyone who objects to paying the level of taxes they pay is therefore objecting to the provision of various public goods, I feel as though I'm being accused of bad faith.

If the Left and conservatives/libertarians (I won't use "Right" because I don't consider myself "of the Right") really want to talk, the Left is going to have to be open to the fact that many of us cons/libs really do share many of the Left's goals, but we simply disagree on the best means to those ends. What infuriates many of us is when our very reasonable, and well-supported by lots of smart thinkers in various disciplines, arguments are ruled out a priori because the Left's imagination about other ways of reaching their goals is too limited.

One of the interesting by-products of the numerical domination of academia by the Left is that the libertarians and conservatives who *are* in academia tend to be a lot more familiar with the best work of the Left than the Left is with ours. If this blog is really going to encourage dialogue, the contributors are going to have to do some homework I think.

Posted by: Steve Horwitz | Dec 12, 2004 12:32:59 PM


Posted by: Jeff Licquia

Overall, a very true and honest post. I think observations about "things that make us great that aren't New York" is quibbling; certainly New York is one of our great national assets, and observing such does not shame the sacrifices of our fallen veterans, many of whom were from New York.

But this "paying taxes as patriotism" thing flies in the face of the original Patriots, who yelled "no taxation without representation!" as a rallying cry and casus belli for the Revolution, and who threw their tea into Boston Harbor rather than let the British levy taxes on it.

I do not think that violation of the tax laws is justified in the way it was back then; for one, we all have representation in the government. But opposition to current tax policy, legal tax avoidance, and laments over many of the horrid practices of the IRS are not necessarily anti-patriotic, any more than opposition to the Iraq war is necessarily anti-patriotic. Nor, certainly, are questions regarding government spending, without which we would need no taxes.

Perhaps that's your point: that "shutting down the debate" on taxes and spending by appeals to patriotism is no more valid than it is on war and security. If so, point taken, and I agree.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia | Dec 12, 2004 12:50:07 PM


Posted by: Mona

David Velleman: I realize few so far have much appreciated Ms. Anderson's defense of NYC, zoning laws, and taxes vis-a-vis "patriotism." The thing is, I was bemused by her piece.

The phenomenon of suspecting much of the left of being anti-patriotic is shared by people who have no difficulty with zoning ordinances, and even by Reagan Democrats who think FDR was a saint for giving us the New Deal. Taxes and entitlement programs are not the problem where patriotism is concerned, and have nothing to do with the "crisis in their perceived lack of patriotism" those on the left are experiencing, particularly those on the academic left.

Others here have already set forth some nutshell histories of the left's reaction to the threat of domestic Communists, who REALLY existed, and who REALLY committed espionage; this was not some drunken fantasy of Joseph McCarthy's. The defense of these traitors continues to this very day -- I commend to you John Earl Haynes' and Harvey Klehr's In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage. See how the left, inside and out of the academy, historically treated academics who told the truth about the evil of Stalinism and its domestic proponents, and how petulantly and angrily they react now when the Venona decrypts and other evidence render continued denial very difficult.

This loyalty to the Communist Party USA and its members, this idea that anti-communism was in all events much WORSE than Stalinism and espionage, is all of a piece and seamlessly related to Michael Mooreism, Chomskyism, and the countenancing of obscene and blatant anti-American posturing among campus protestors and activists, faculty and students alike, today.

Paeans to NYC's zoning scheme or the joys of a top tax bracket strike me as whistling past the graveyard. I am very sure my sainted, Union member grandparents, who I swear lit vigil candles before FDR's picture, were patriots -- and not just because Grandma voted for Reagan. Fiscal policy is just not the bone of contention here.

What, I'd like to know, does the loyal academic left plan to do about the anti-American scholarly authorities and partisans in their midst? Will there ever be an effort to denounce them and distance yourselves from them?

Posted by: Mona | Dec 12, 2004 12:53:12 PM


Posted by: Paul Velleman

I want to draw attention to Liz’s comment “Give me the pursuit of excellence over ‘self-esteem’ any day.” This is key to the differing attitudes toward patriotism.
There is a laziness to be found on both sides of the political spectrum that looks for easy answers, convenient labels, and ready-made points of view. If we on this blog are fighting anything, it is that laziness. The movement to the “self-esteem” that comes from empty reassurance and compliments rather than from effort and mastery has spread through too much of our culture. It is something we’ve had to fight in our education system and must now fight in our political system.

We’re told that Rove’s insight was to keep it simple. Unfortunately, that’s not the way to achieve excellence. And, for that reason, it isn’t patriotic. Our political system seems to have lost the public forum for informed discussion and debate that leads to better policies and better government. To follow Liz’s analogy, it isn’t safe out on the political streets, so people are hiding in their homes and talking only to those who agree with them.

It is time to take back the streets. But we’re going to have to do it without a mayor on a crime-control mission. The essays on this blog ask readers to think. Some discussants have fallen back on simplistic models of the world. We should ignore them. It may be a sign of the times that we have been accused of being (gasp!) intellectuals.

Fortunately, neither thinking nor excellence requires credentials. My hope for this blog is that we’ll attract a community of readers and discussants who strive for excellence wherever we can find it, regardless of whether it appears to be a Left or Right position. And that we’ll set aside our self-esteem for a while.

In that way we can practice patriotism and not just talk about it in the abstract.

Posted by: Paul Velleman | Dec 12, 2004 12:58:53 PM


Posted by: bakho

Those opposed to the war need to discriminate between the politicians that are responsible for the war and the military that must carry out the orders of the politicians. The politicians try to deflect criticism of their conduct of wars back onto the military. Thus, the guards at Abu Graib were scapegoated for the policies apporved by Bush, Rummy, and our AG nominee. Gonzales. When 100,000 Iraqis die, the person responsible is George W Bush, not the military. Many in our military don't want to be in Iraq and do not have adequate support from the Bush administration including equipment, medical care for the injured or pay.

The Patriotic case against the war in Iraq is that it is bad policy that is hurting the US and its stature in the world, it is degrading our military of both equipment and manpower, it is creating more problems than it is solving, it is an obtacle to fighting the true war on terrorism. We are against the war because our president is out of touch and has lost sight of what is in the best interests of the US. Iraq is not a failure because of our military. Our military accomplished their objectives in spring of 2003. Since then the military has been in a no win position of having to backstop Bush administration political failures in Iraq. It is our politicians that are failing Iraq and our country by their bad policies. The Bush failure in Iraq cannot be blamed on the failure of Americans to support their country. A reason for failure in Iraq was uncritical support of bad policy.

Posted by: bakho | Dec 12, 2004 1:00:40 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Jeff Licquia writes:

But this "paying taxes as patriotism" thing flies in the face of the original Patriots, who yelled "no taxation without representation!" as a rallying cry and casus belli for the Revolution, and who threw their tea into Boston Harbor rather than let the British levy taxes on it.

All the work of that slogan is done by "without representation!" There are legitimate worries about how responsive all units of American government are to the people. But we're nowhere close to the world of the colonies, where 1/the colonists couldn't vote for MPs and 2/Parliament could and did pass laws that treated the colonies differently from the UK (and so destroying the usual fallback justification, the theory of virtual representation, which I am feeling not quite nerdy enough to reproduce here).

Posted by: Don Herzog | Dec 12, 2004 1:05:22 PM


Posted by: TB

Patriotism? Please ...

This is just another right wing canard like liberal media, or limousine liberal.

Get the left into a defensive position, and keep them denying their lack of something we define; call them XXX, and they'll spend most of their time talking about that, rather than talking about issues or the failings of the right.

Nice trick, but I give it zero credence.

What has this country done in the last four years to feel good about, get hit by a bunch of religious fanatics? Please ...

When this country does something good, when it lives up to its principles, not just its military and economic capabilities, then I feel good about it. When it screws up (and let's face it, it's screwed up massively recently) it deserves to be called on it.

How about this for a definition:

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official."

Theodore Roosevelt

Oh and:


"..."who think (just to give one example) the US sponsored terrorism against Cuba and Nicaragua was a good idea."

I'm sorry Robb, I must show my ignorance...exactly WHAT acts of terrorism are you speaking of? And how are you so SURE that they were "US-backed?""

Posted by: cas

You're fricking kidding, right?

I've personally known people who saw their whole family slaughtered (women and children raped and then beaten to death in front of the men, and then the men beaten and shot) by the contras (who Regan compared to our founding fathers). Excellent use of U.S. foreign policy? Nice training at The School of The Americas that we supplied huh? Remember Eugene Hassenfuss? What was he doing again? Ollie North?

Oh yeah, what was current ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte's roll in covering up of human rights abuses carried out by CIA-trained operatives in Honduras in the 1980s?

Yeah, sure, we're the good guys in the white hats, just ask any American, they'll tell ya!

I believe that the first duty of a patriot in a democracy is to critically look at their country, and not shy away from our failings, both to others, and our failings to ourselves, at ALL TIMES, both in peace, and in war.

Our allegiance is to The Constitution and to the enlightened principles it embodies. When our government crosses that line, there should be no end to the hue and cry until they tow the mark.

I have zero tolerance for cynical pols of any stripe who think The Constitution is something to be jimmied and contorted for their own ends or to benefit corporations at the expense of we, the people.

I have even less tolerance for their lackwit supporters.

Posted by: TB | Dec 12, 2004 1:11:52 PM


Posted by: a-train

"...What is so great about patriotism? Why is this so important? What would happen if people were not patriotic?"

If you HATE your country, what are doing constructively to change it? How does the idea "one world under God" help to solve the problems you perceive in your country that make you unable to show pride in your country, and those whose sacrifice themselves in her name?

I don't hate my country. Someone used an analogy of children and family up thread. I love my children. Does this mean that when they do something wrong and I point it out that I "hate" them? I really do love this country. My problem with what those on right call "patriotism" is that I see it being used as a tool (targeting the limbic brain (emotional seat): anger, fear and hatred of the "other") to consolidate power and wealth for the few.

Furthermore is it a legitimate argument to say the America is a perfectly innocent actor in the Muslim world? That they "hate us because they hate freedom"? Do either of these postions help in the "war on terror"?


GW Bush: "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Not was I willing
to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

He is talking about a war that he supported, he was an able bodied man who skipped over 1,000 people to enter the National Guard to avoid fighting when his nation called - this is the candidate of the more "patriotic" party?

Pattern here? What does this say?

Democrats:

* Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
* David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
* Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
* Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
* Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
* Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
* John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
* Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
* Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
* Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
* Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
* Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
* Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
* Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
* Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
* Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
* Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
* Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
* Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
* Chuck Robb: Vietnam
* Howell Heflin: Silver Star
* George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
* Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
* Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
* Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
* John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
* Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.


Republicans -- and these are the guys sending people to war:

* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Frist: did not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve.
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* Jon! Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
* B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8 years.
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

Pundits & Preachers

* Sean Hannity: did not serve.
* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
* Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
* Michael Savage: did not serve.
* George Will: did not serve.
* Chris Matthews: did not serve.
* Paul Gigot: did not serve.
* Bill Bennett: did not serve.
* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
* John Wayne: did not serve.
* Bill Kristol: did not serve.
* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
* Ralph Reed: did not serve.
* Michael Medved: did not serve.
* Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
* Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don't shoot back.)


Posted by: a-train | Dec 12, 2004 1:19:11 PM


Posted by: David Velleman

Mona asks:

What, I'd like to know, does the loyal academic left plan to do about the anti-American scholarly authorities and partisans in their midst?

What we "do about" people with whom we disagree, in academia, is to voice our disagreement -- as Liz so eloquently did. That's not just the academic way of doing things; it's the American way, as I understand it. Unfortunately, there are many people who (like McCarthy) won't be satisfied unless more is "done". But that's a topic covered by a different post.

Posted by: David Velleman | Dec 12, 2004 1:20:44 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

The essays on this blog ask readers to think. Some discussants have fallen back on simplistic models of the world. We should ignore them. It may be a sign of the times that we have been accused of being (gasp!) intellectuals.

Who accused you of being intellectuals? Seriously. I just did a word search on the last six or seven threads, and "intellectual" was used a handful of times, never as a pejorative and -- I beg pardon for pointing it out -- never in specific reference to the owners of this blog.

Eh. Simplistic, yourself.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 12, 2004 1:26:43 PM


Posted by: John F. Opie

TB -

Where do you draw the line in being critical? When the US works according to *your* agenda?

If you don't like the activity of the CIA - legally empowered and politically approved - do you "out" CIA agents in foreign countries? Or only heads of station? Do you give aid and comfort to the enemy in a war that you disapprove? No? Yes?

Simple questions. How do you answer them?

Posted by: John F. Opie | Dec 12, 2004 1:27:34 PM


Posted by: mw

"(The latest example is Michael Moore's suggestion that the U.S. went to war against the Taliban in order to get an oil pipeline built across that country. Only slightly less absurd is the suggestion that the U.S. went into Iraq to seize its oil). I do deny that the charge is applicable to liberals in general."

In general, I think Elizabeth's piece is very nice. But do I think she's fooling herself a bit in the above. My sense is that rather a lot of liberals think the US invaded Iraq to seize the oil. Not all, of course, and I don't know quite how to evaluate how many must believe it for it to be 'applicable to liberals in general' (which strikes me as a hedge).

But consider the oil-pipeline theory of the Afghan war which was put forward in Fahrenheit 9/11. Several prominent Democrats honored Moore by attenting a special Washington viewing. Afterward, the only quotes from those Democrats that I read were words of praise for the film--none of criticism. When asked directly about the pipeline theory, Terry Mcauliffe (chairman of the DNC--not some fringe character), reportedly said that he thought it might be something to it and that he would have to check it out. What I wanted to hear Mcauliffe say was that not only was the pipeline theory patently ridiculous but also an insult to the victims of 9/11 and the US soldiers in harm's way in Afghanistan. I didn't hear anything like that.

Before you dismiss my opinion as that of just another Democratic-bashing conservative, let me tell you that I would describe myself as a libertarian-leaning independent who usually votes mostly Democratic (the Libertarian party itself is an irrelevant joke). I'm not religious, and I strongly opposed the state's anti-gay marriage initiative, for example.

I voted for Clinton twice with enthusiasm and Gore as well (though with misgivings). I had expected to vote for Kerry too (I even made a donation to the campaign), but when it came down to it, I couldn't do it. I wasn't only the Democrats' cozying up to the Mooreish left, but also the backpedaling from Clinton's support of free trade as well as disturbing hints of xenophobia (the 'opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York' comment really didn't sit well with me).

That said, I don't really care about 'patriotism' per se. It seems kind of pointless to me to argue about who is and is not patriotic according to what definition. It's the actual policies and positions that matter, not whether or not they can be characterized as 'patriotic'.


Posted by: mw | Dec 12, 2004 1:33:39 PM


Posted by: Mona

What we "do about" people with whom we disagree, in academia, is to voice our disagreement -- as Liz so eloquently did. That's not just the academic way of doing things; it's the American way, as I understand it.

Sure is. And where is the leftist leadership, on campus and off, that is loudly and publicly criticizing the disloyal activists in your midst? You know, the hue and cry I and others could point to when it is claimed that the academy is a cesspool of "moonbats" and such?

Genteel posting on this blog is fine, and I'm glad to see it, but where are the others of you and what have they been saying at their own counter-rallies,petitions,letters to student papers and that sort of thing?

There is a HUGE perception that literally anything critical of the U.S., of its President, and in support of enemies such as (but not limited to) Islamic radicals and terrorists, can and has been said, frequently, with little to no alarm or censure by academics. If that perception is wrong, I'd genuinely be interested to see the evidence for it.

Posted by: Mona | Dec 12, 2004 1:42:29 PM


Posted by: a-train

But consider the oil-pipeline theory of the Afghan war which was put forward in Fahrenheit 9/11 ... What I wanted to hear Mcauliffe say was that not only was the pipeline theory patently ridiculous but also an insult to the victims of 9/11 and the US soldiers in harm's way in Afghanistan. I didn't hear anything like that.

This is my problem with the run up to Afghanistan. I felt like the information was still coming in. Was 9/11 an act of criminal organization of individuals or a state sponsored act of war? What was the plan? Why treat it as a war rather than a crime? Who benefits? How does who benefits affect the policy we follow? Does this approach help solve the problem? Why are hi-jackers mostly Saudi Arabians and yet we are attacking Afghanistan?

(obviously some of these questions were answered subsequently, but that is what I felt at the time ... like we were responding emotionally rather than in a cool and calculated way aimed at solving the problem) ... like we were acting in a way that made for good TV.

These things were never even debated, either you were "for us" (i.e. follow Bush and Co unquestioningly) or you were "against us". I think this is Michael Moore's point.

Posted by: a-train | Dec 12, 2004 1:50:17 PM


Posted by: TB

John F. Opie:

Simple questions. How do you answer them?

I don't draw any lines at being critical.

The line I draw is when a person or argument stops being rational, e.g. we shouldn't teach creation "science" in public schools no matter how much a person or group of persons with an agenda WANT to teach it simply because that is their want, we should not teach it because it's at best bad science and is not rational (and at worst unconstitutional and a fairly blatant power grab be religious extremists) .

What do you mean by "aid and comfort"? Protesting? Speaking out with contrary opinions against a war?

Yes, I know that's what some of the irrationals of the radical right consider as aid and comfort (including the recently disgraced Bernard Kerik), but to my understanding, executing your constitutional rights is not giving aid and comfort, and trying to dissuade or outright prevent a person from doing so is extremely unpatriotic.

I don't see reasons for outing CIA personnel, and as far as outing CIA agents go, I'll leave that to the current administration and their friends in the "liberal" media like that douche Bob Novak.

Posted by: TB | Dec 12, 2004 1:51:47 PM


Posted by: TB

a-train, I think you have it more or less correct not only on the run up to the war in Afghanistan, but also the current administrations dealing with basic American (I could say patriotic American) concepts like openness and transparency of government as well as other basic democratic ideas like accountability.

The whole mindset from day one has been one of "We're in charge, DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS! We know how to handle this."

The current administration shows a real aversion to things like discussion, debate, contrary opinions, overwhelming facts that go against preconceived notions, both within branches of gov't and outside, in the media and populace at large.

The whole mindset seems to be one of democratically elected monarchy, rather than representative gov't.

And that's BEFORE action takes place (which is illogical and downright dangerous during a war).

What happens afterwards, when mistakes have been made is even more distressing to watch. Remember when Bush was asked about mistakes he had made, and all he could come up with was a stumbling answer concerning some bad appointments to his cabinet, i.e. vague illusions to O'Neil & Clarke. Two guys who had the temerity to question what was going on and turned out to be right.

Posted by: TB | Dec 12, 2004 2:09:14 PM


Posted by: mw

"This is my problem with the run up to Afghanistan. I felt like the information was still coming in. Was 9/11 an act of criminal organization of individuals or a state sponsored act of war? What was the plan? Why treat it as a war rather than a crime? Who benefits? How does who benefits affect the policy we follow? Does this approach help solve the problem? Why are hi-jackers mostly Saudi Arabians and yet we are attacking Afghanistan?"

These are not (and were not) hard question to answer.

"Why not treat the attack as a crime rather than an act of war".

Because of the scale. It was literally the bombing of Washington, D.C. and New York. The fact that airliners full of jet fuel were used as missles rather than conventional military missiles makes little difference (in fact, conventional cruise missiles would have done much less damage--they would not have taken down the Trade Center towers).

"Was 9/11 an act of criminal organization of individuals or a state sponsored act of war?"

It was the act of a criminal terrorist organization (Al Queda) which had a state sponsor and protector (the Taliban government of Afghanistan). Had the Taliban government co-operated completely in the capture of Bin Laden and his associates, there would have been no war. But it quickly became clear that Al Queda and the Taliban were closely linked allies.

"Why are hi-jackers mostly Saudi Arabians and yet we are attacking Afghanistan?"

Because Al Queda was based in Afghanistan and had the support of the Afghan government.

"Who benefits? How does who benefits affect the policy we follow?"

Qui Bono? Unocal, of course. And Haliburton. And Lockheed-Martin. Seriously, this is the classic question of those who favor anti-American conspiracy theories. ANY time that military action is undertaken, corporations in the arms industry will benefit.
That does not make them the 'real' reason for taking action. And to immediately jump to the assumption that this a plausible or likely explanation is the problem we're talking about.

Posted by: mw | Dec 12, 2004 2:15:42 PM


Posted by: duus

S. Weasel:

I would like an answer to my question. Is there anyone on the right who could say what they mean by "my country," when they say they love it? What is it that they love? the president? a set of values? a history? a group of people? a plot of land? what is it?

to me, it is people. What makes Americans different than any other group of people, asks S. Weasel. That they are my people. That is the essence of patriotism, is it not? I don't really understand where you are coming from. Are you taking a position that patriotism is irrational? Or just mine? Or were you just musing out loud?

Do you consider yourself a patriot? Do you love this country? What does "this country" mean to you then?

Posted by: duus | Dec 12, 2004 2:17:24 PM


Posted by: Jeff Licquia

Don: Very true. But, to use Elizabeth's words, "no resentment of taxes" as a statement of patriotism is not supportable from the standpoint of what "patriot" has meant in American history.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia | Dec 12, 2004 2:23:28 PM


Posted by: rumpy doppelganger

To me, patriotism means commitment. Are you married to this country, or are you sleeping around?

Things that cause me to wonder about the patriotism of others:
- The anability to see the plank in others' eyes due to the speck in their own.
- A reflexive presumption of bad faith on the part of their nation and its duly elected officials.
- A willingness to crassly exploit national pains for political gain.
- And especially, the obvious desire to want to believe the very worst, the use of questionably, bogus, or even fraudulent data to paint as poor a picture of the nation as they can (see, e.g., 100,000 Iraqi deaths). This desire to believe the worst, to me, is an insight into their actual beliefs.

Posted by: rumpy doppelganger | Dec 12, 2004 2:47:40 PM


Posted by: TB

OK, how about this:

I am patriotic about America, and I love America because of its ideals, not because of its power.

I love America because of what this country represents and what this country should stand for.

I feel that when this country flags from those representations and fails to live up to its responsibilities it not only should be criticized, it deserves to be criticized.

I believe that America is not a flag or a group of people or just the red states or the blue, America is a set of IDEALS and CONCEPTS, that's what we should actually be pledging our allegiance to.

I believe it was Thomas Paine who said that 'the future of America is indeed the future of the world', and I believe that.

I believe that what America really is, belief in the individual and the rights that are inherent in them, that the individual has the right and expectation to participate in their own governance, these, I believe are LIBERAL principals.

Democracy, self-determination, self-responsibility, and the values of the enlightenment are, by definition, LIBERAL principals.

Monarchies, aversion to critical thought, reliance on old and sordid institutions rather than ones own intellect, a turning away from rationality and critical examination of oneself and ones country, these are, by definition at the time of the founding of this country, non-progressive and conservative ways of interacting in this world.

I agree with W on one issue, I think that having democracies in the Middle East is a good idea. I would go further and say that I believe that having democracies throughout the world is a good idea.

But the real question is: Do we really mean it?

Would we be willing to say to an unnamed country in that region, "We would like you to have democracy so that all of your people are equally and fairly represented, but you also have to understand that one of the underling and bedrock principles of a democracy is a complete and total separation of church and state, because failing to do this corrupts both church AND state."

Would that fly in a place like Iran? Or Iraq? Or Egypt?

Or even more importantly, could we and the people of a foreign make it fly?

We had better. Because we have too many recent examples of what happens when fundamentalist zealots get out of hand, or democracy is not fully realized.

Posted by: TB | Dec 12, 2004 2:53:52 PM


Posted by: Cookie

Unfortunately, I see many problems in this essay, ad in the many responses to it. But there are other things calling me, so I will only address a very few.

First, there is an assumption throughout the responses that a failure to support the war in Iraq is a failure to support the soldiers. No. That's not how it works, although that's how it's spun by the Rove machine. I place blame squarely on the shoulders of Bush and the other chickenhawks.

And I do believe the fact that they are chickenhawks accounts for the mess we now find ourselves in.

This theme continues into a strange attack on Apocalypse now as an attack on soldiers through unfair characterization.

No. Apocalypse Now is actually a fairly accurate account of what CAN and DOES happen to those who fight our wars for us. It serves as fair warning, IOW --- warning we choose to dismiss because it's too messy and uncomfortable for our delicate eyes.

Furthermore, there are many of us who supported the effort in Afghanistan yet, from the very start, objected in every way to Iraq because the end result --- the place we now find ourselves in --- was predictable. Not to mention, the reasons themselves were flimsy, at best

You know, on more than a few occasions, I've found myself soundly attacked for supporting the lefty war (Afghanistan). This is how absurd the dialogue has become.

Finally, exactly how is it unpatriotic to hold your own country to the highest of moral standards? I do the same for myself --- why shouldn't I demand the same from my government?

If expecting the best from my country is unpatriotic, so be it. If refusing to believe the Rove spin dooms me to the far left, and therefore out of the inner group of those Democrats who find us so shameful, well, hey, it was nice to know you. Or not, depending.

Posted by: Cookie | Dec 12, 2004 3:00:22 PM


Posted by: TB

Mr. doppelganger:

Commitment to what?

A party, a country or a set of ideals?

And to carry your analogy of marriage a little bit further, what happens if (for the sake of discussion) your spouse begins behaving erratically?

What if your spouse/country were to begin drinking heavily (or suffer a brain hemorrhage, or a blow to the head or some other malady) and start acting violently? What if your spouse/country were to irrationally set fire to a neighbors car? What if, in the middle of your spouse's/country's drinking binge, you took the bottle away from them, and they were to plaintively look up at you and ask, "Don't you love me/aren't you patriotic?"

Your committed, you love this person/country and you're not going to give up.

What do you do?

Posted by: TB | Dec 12, 2004 3:10:13 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

What makes Americans different than any other group of people, asks S. Weasel. That they are my people. That is the essence of patriotism, is it not?

No, I think I would consider that the essence of tribalism. Though it's hard to see how even that applies in America, since we aren't ethnically homogeneous. It sounds like you're saying Americans are different because they live in America, and therefore I love them. I'm still not seeing your point, I guess.

Do you consider yourself a patriot? Do you love this country? What does "this country" mean to you then?

Hm. I'm not sure I can boil this down to blog comment and not sound foolish, but here goes. I'm not sure America would have been what it became had it been born at any other time but the Enlightenment. Our constitution was deliberately stitched together by a bunch of very smart guys who lived and died arguing politics in taverns. They were mistrustful of government and men who seek power. They absorbed English common law, free markets, respect for individual achievement. They understood that government doesn't grant rights. They narrowly defined the role of a federal government, and understood that local areas were better served by local bodies. I'm trying to avoid words like freedom and equality, which instantly make everyone's brain travel back in time to Civics class and nod off. I guess the America I'm devoted to believes the individual citizen is the building block of the nation and isn't to be interfered with absent good cause.

The fact that we didn't live up to our ideals then, and we don't still, doesn't detract (much) from the American ideal as the most livable form of government yet devised. We lucked out when we found ourselves in a rich and beautiful land, but I don't think it's the place I'm devoted to. I think I could get misty-eyed about a United States of the Moon.

Ummmm...you don't have to hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic while reading this entry, but it would prop it up a little.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Dec 12, 2004 3:14:32 PM


Posted by: Mona

TB: regarding that "douche" Robert Novak. He straddles the line on being a member of the paleo-con right, and certainly hobnobs with paleo-cons whom I will unabashedly call unpatriotic. They agree with the left about the war in Iraq, and some on the left therefor embrace them, but they are really vile people.

To get a flavor for who these folks are, do a google on "Chronicles" magazine and the name of its editor, Thomas Fleming. (Or you can read what one National Review writer has to say of them here: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=6818) Novak I *think* has been published by them, and certainly Pat Buchanan has. They are xenophobic, overtly Jew-hating and racist, "Southern Agrarianss" who belong to front groups for the White Citizens Council. They are almost all, also, extremely well-educated, many holding bona fide doctorates.

The reason I am so intimate with them is because this is the conservatism in which I was raised, by an academic. Daddy also opposes the war in Iraq, which he regards as a Zionist plot. My Dad is un-American, and prolly would not dispute that.

Far left and right meet up in the fever swamps of bigotry and conspiracy theories, and both are unpatriotic. But the right has taken effort to expunge the anti-Americans in their midst. Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran have been so criticized by Buckley et al. that they no longer even try to publish in NR.

Posted by: Mona | Dec 12, 2004 3:28:46 PM


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