Any person who has strong sentiments against the way things are done in this country has probably heard "love it or leave it" at some point. What is the logic of this argument?
First of all, we must apply this idea to common life and the problems that we encounter daily. Suppose I go into a fast food restaurant, and the place is packed. Kids are running around screaming, trash cans are overflowing, and the line seems endless. In this situation, the appropriate response might be to leave and go to another establishment.
This is obviously an easy choice that takes no major effort. However, there are other alternatives. You could complain to a manager about the restaurant's environment and express your inability to return until conditions have changed. It is likely that your complaint will not do much, but it could. This second alternative is obviously a choice other than leaving. The second alternative promises some change (profit/loss analysis of private business could also change things by leaving; this is much different from how government would react to a citizen leaving). The fact that the second alternative gives other options shows that you don't have to leave. The fast food restaurant has a capability to change, and in its own interest it should.
The above situation is a small inconvenience. Let's take it up a notch. Suppose a fraternity buys the house next to me. The noise level is horrendous, and I can't sleep at night. According to the "love it or leave it" people, I should sell my house and move. Why not choose other avenues and alternatives like attempting to negotiate with the owners, call the police, or try to get new noise regulations in your neighborhood? Because the local government does not have adequate noise regulations, you should accordingly leave the entire city instead of attempting to change the law.
Our founding fathers were not "love it or leave it" people. Thomas Jefferson did not tell everyone in the colonies with the Declaration of Independence to leave the oppressive tax regime of England and move to the unsettled and ungoverned far west. In fact, Thomas Jefferson went one step further by saying in the declaration:
"…Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Jefferson did not simply wish you to stay and change the laws of your government. If necessary, the people should "abolish it, and [to] institute new Government." I can express this idea in a similar sentence. The government should respect the wishes of its people or leave.
Another argument made by "love it or leave it" people is that this country is better than other countries and those against the current regime should stop complaining. I agree. The US is one of the best countries in the world. However, being the best does not justify all actions.
Suppose that if you live in Mexico a citizen is stabbed five times and in the US you are only beaten. Surely, any reasonable person would agree that the US is better than Mexico. Being better does not justify violence and coercion toward citizens. Actions of both countries are inappropriate even though Mexico's are more violent.
Isn't there a separation of loving your country without loving the government? I can love New Orleans without loving all rules, taxes, and regulations involved. Another example is parents. Most of us love our parents, but we didn't enjoy being punished as kids. Therefore, any kid who does not like their parents' rules should become a street rat according to "love it or leave it." The child loves his parent despite the rules. Together, the kids and parents may negotiate new rules.
This philosophy is utterly incompatible with real life. "Love it or leave it" is best left to those who cannot defend justifications of state power and laws through logical argumentation.
May 18, 2006