New (Pseudo) Patriotism
is suddenly in vogue. American flags are everywhere on clothing,
automobiles, storefronts, billboard advertisements, and so on. I
believe I have seen more American flags in the past two months than
in the previous two years. The same goes for the phrases "United
We Stand" and "God Bless America." They are everywhere.
found myself spending time putting my finger on what is troublesome
about the new patriotism. It is superficial. From somewhere I recall
hearing a sarcastic, "Instant patriotism. Add water and stir."
Real patriotism is not simply worn on your lapel, or flown from
your car. Real patriotism costs something.
that isnít it. Many things in life are superficial. That doesnít
necessarily make them bad. More to the point is that the new patriots
seem to applaud the federal powergrab of the past two months. At
least, the new patriotism has no serious problems with it. After
all, weíre at war now, it says. It suggests we can no longer afford
the convenience of a distinction between society and government,
or between patriotism understood as loyalty to the ideals under
which the country was founded and blind submission to the yahoos
currently running it. So relatively few are complaining that the
much-touted Patriot Act of 2001 which Bush the Younger just signed
has all the ingredients for setting up a police state in America
in the name of "homeland security." The entire campaign
has the full backing of the dominant media, where you will find
statements like, "Big government is back, and high time, too."
Or: "The time has come to end the government-bashing of the
past 20 years." (The truth, of course, is that the size and
scope of the federal government increased over the past 20 years
especially during the 1990s.)
letís revisit real patriotism that kind that was here
all along, but wasnít in vogue because it didnít kowtow to whatever
came out of Washington, D.C. Real patriotism, alluded to
already, is loyalty to your country understood as loyalty to the
set of ideals under which it was founded. In our case, this means
loyalty to the ideas of God-given rights that inhere in individuals,
not in groups. It means responsibilities derived from a morality
with a transcendent source, not "values" made up by human
beings that differ from culture to culture (relativism), or deduced
in some mysterious way from human nature. It means commitment to
the idea that government may be a necessary evil, given sinful man,
but as the product of men, government should be limited to a few
and carefully specified functions. That was the purpose of the U.S.
Constitution, to describe the structure and functions of the various
branches of government, and (after the struggle between the so-called
federalists and so-called anti-federalists) to enumerate rights.
And it is important that the portion of the Constitution known as
the Bill of Rights enumerates rights; it does not create
them out of thin air. It is one of the more interesting delusions
of modernity that it is possible for human beings, especially those
in government, to create rights. Following these provisions
consistently means maintaining a society committed to the rule of
law, not rule by political elites or gangs of criminals (sometimes
they are the same thing).
it should go without saying that no political leader loyal to the
Constitution is going to embark on an agenda which any thinking
person must soon realize cannot be accomplished without setting
up a global empire. The desire to retaliate against the thugs who
destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon is quite
understandable. I understand, "Letís roll." However, an
undeclared "war" to eradicate all the bullies, tyrants,
sociopaths and misfits out there is not the answer. Assuming that
the al Qaeda network is responsible for what happened on
September 11, we are talking about a highly decentralized entity
that spans many countries, and possibly connects to other such entities
not taking marching orders from Osama bin Laden. No one, of course,
knows for sure. But the limited "successes" in Afghanistan
are already being cited as a possible pretext to a new invasion
of Iraq even though I am aware of no evidence connecting
Saddam Hussein to the September 11 attacks. It could be a pretext
to an invasion of still more nations. Talk about a recipe for generating
still more hatred of the "Great Satan" in the Muslim world!
question has been asked before: how would we even know when we defeated
this network? A cessation of activities might just mean that its
remaining leaders have gone underground until the heat died down.
Bush Jr.ís Marines might get bin Laden before the year is out. My
guess: theyíll "accidentally" shoot him rather than bring
him to the U.S. for what would quickly turn into the biggest media
circus since the O.J. Simpson show. But I recall hearing the phrase
somewhere, "One dead martyr is worth ten living leaders."
is worth pointing out that FBI agents have known for several years
that there were terrorists on U.S. soil some of them here
illegally and some of them here simply because of our absurdly lax
immigration laws. There was evidence long before September 11 that
something was up. The federal government could have stopped it,
but the Clinton / Reno Regime wasnít interested; the Bush Jr. /
Ashcroft one has followed suit. The point is, weíve known for years
that a major terrorist attack could happen.
does all this leave the new patriotism? It is embarrassingly obvious
that flying the federal flag hardly counts as loyalty to the ideals
spelled out in the Constitution. (Most of the "public school"
graduates flying these flags probably could not tell you what is
in the Constitution.) Be this as it may, I do not recall either
Bush Jr. or Ashcroft so much as mentioning the Constitution in any
of their public statements. Has anyone besides Ron Paul (R-Tx) examined
the new Patriot Act of 2001 with an eye to whether or not the Constitution
authorizes its various provisions? Does it authorize the kinds of
wiretapping of private conversations, etc., that Ashcroft has been
talking about? Does it authorize overriding attorney-client privilege?
Does it authorize holding several hundred people of Middle Eastern
origin for days on end in undisclosed locations without charging
them with any crime?
so we must declare the new patriotism to be a pseudo-patriotism
something following closely on the heels of the past 12 years
rather than repudiating them. Political correctness has shifted
in emphasis somewhat to accommodate the countryís new crisis mode
it is now barely permissible to criticize either U.S. foreign
policy or the fedsí domestic efforts to deal with the alleged emergency.
Feelings are still what count: the federal flag is serving the same
function as Linusís security blanket. I presume the people flying
it from their cars feel supremely good about themselves. Meanwhile,
the fedsí efforts to deal with the whatever threats really exist
of acts of further terror on U.S. soil would be laughable if they
werenít so annoying: people having cigarette lighters and nail-clippers
confiscated by security personnel at airports, for example. A couple
of weeks ago, an innocent indiscretion by a man in a hurry to retrieve
a camera turned into a fiasco that shut down Atlantaís Hartsfield
International Airport for three hours. Now the man may face a huge
civil lawsuit over something that wouldnít have even raised eyebrows
three months ago. Welcome to the New America! There have been other
fiascoes of this nature at airports. Meanwhile, it is clear that
those who wish to can get real weapons past these buffoons, if they
so choose. The federal government has done nothing about whatever
terrorist threats currently exist in this country except to make
this really the direction we want to go as a society?
concur readily with anyone who says so that the people who blew
up the World Trade Center were sociopaths, and I doubt they are
presently getting rewards from Allah for murdering innocent people
in cold blood! The Taliban, former rulers of Afghanistan, were indeed
a repressive, barely civilized gang whose rank and file did not
question authority. Much of the Middle East is like that. (Somewhere
in here is an argument against the silly multiculturalism of the
past 12 years holding that cultures can mix indiscriminately while
maintaining their cultural identity. But thatís another column.)
we allow this country to turn quietly but openly into a police state,
saying nothing as our "leaders" build up an internationalist
empire in the name of eradicating terrorism, then the terrorists
will have won. They will have won by having destroyed the things
that made this country worth defending. Worse yet, our own political
elites will have done the job for them. We will not have defeated
them; we will have become just like them, solving our problems through
brute force and mass murder. The new (pseudo) patriots see none
of this. But they had better start looking.
Yates [send him mail]
has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994). He is a professional writer at work on a number of projects
including a work of political philosophy, The Paradox of Liberty.
He also writes for the Edgefield
Journal, and is available for lectures. He has set up a small
freelance writing business, Millennium 3 Communications. Currently
living in Columbia, South Carolina, he will join the Mises Institute
early next year as a Rowley Fellow.
© 2001 LewRockwell.com
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