Thursday, July 14, 2022

Patriotism is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

You can distract people from what you are doing by claiming to be the uber-patriot.

A reader writes:

I'm really glad I read what you wrote today. As a 'Murican and a veteran, I can't believe I started feeling a little creeped out when I was at the local carnival in Ashburn last month w/my kids. Every time I saw a dude in a shirt w/a flag, he was also sporting those khaki tactical pants and the shirt usually had some crap printed on the back regarding faith, firearms, and god knows what else. Fuck those guys!
This reminds me of a famous quote by Samuel Johnson, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." This quote has been misunderstood by some to mean that patriotism is bad - it isn't, in the right context. But what Johnson was getting at, was that scoundrels, to disguise their true nature or to distract from their bad acts, will wrap themselves in the flag and claim to be super-patriots, and ergo, no one can question their motives, because to do so is to question patriotism itself.

But what exactly is patriotism, anyway?  Some say it is love of "their country" but that does that mean?  Love of the land itself, or the form of government we have struggled to create over the centuries?  Or is it the love of the various people - or maybe just some of them?  Or is it love of our culture, such as it is?

Or is patriotism defined by your willingness to fight for your country and serve in the military?  If so, does that mean no one else can be patriotic? 

It is interesting to me, but patriotism means different things to different people.  And for the most part, I think there is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism, provided it is not used as a cloak or mantle to disguise ugly thoughts and deeds.  Many of the people claiming to be "patriots" seem to think that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination, violence, and belligerent behavior in general are "patriotic."    I am not sure what any of those things have to do with the country in general - but do represent some "cultural values" of some very nasty people.

But as I noted in my previous posting, the American flag doesn't stand for any of that - nor does our country.  The American flag was created at a time we were fighting British taxation and tyranny.   Our bill of rights reflects the nature of our grievances - "quartering of troops" isn't such an issue today as it was in 1776.

Our flag was the flag of the Union army that fought against slavery - and let's be very clear about this, the Civil War was all about slavery and nothing else.  State's rights, my ass - the "right" the Southern states were fighting for was the right to enslave people.  The South chose another flag to represent them.   So it is ironic that racists today are waving the American flag and claiming to be patriots, when in fact, they are waving the flag of anti-racism.

Similarly, the American flag was the flag of the US Army (and Navy) that fought against Nazism and fascism.  Today, the people who profess admiration for Adolf Hitler and want to overthrow the government (such as the goomba shown above) drape themselves in the American flag.  It is a calculated move - to abscond with one of our primary symbols and also to imbue their actions with "patriotism" - and thus stifle debate.

When a scoundrel claims to be a patriot, he does so with calculated effect.  The goal is to suppress debate.  If you question their motives or actions, they wrap themselves in the flag and say, "How dare you!" because to question them is to question patriotism and what are you, some kind of commie?

That's what they want you to think, anyway - that anyone who doesn't watch Fox News religiously (and it is a religion, or more precisely, a cult) is unpatriotic.  That anyone who pines for social change is unpatriotic and "should go back to where they came from!"    And oddly enough, some of these folks aren't even from here.  I mean, it is kind of funny that a group defined by hatred of immigrants and minorities was founded by a guy who is here on a green card and is now run by someone of color.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain - particularly if the curtain is made of American flags!

These phony patriots claim to love "freedom" so much, which is why I guess they want to take it away from everyone else.

We should embrace the flag for the symbol of freedom that it is - real freedom, and not hatred and divisiveness.  We cannot let people whose very philosophy is Anti-American take over our flag and our country - particularly when they are being egged on by foreign interests.

Lauding a dictator like Putin is not "patriotic" even if you are Russian!