Yesterday, on a private forum a friend of mine who here will go under the name Sam Anderson said the following:
Patriotism is good. Nationalism through a patriotic lens, seeing your country as worthwhile, as having prospects and things to be proud of, is not only acceptable but necessary for the health of any nation. But MOST especially the United States, because it’s one thing for the French to be ashamed of being French, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be French. France is established on ethnic and historical foundations, and even if the French think they suck, there can still be citizens of France. Just not very long, since self-loathing aligns you, first metaphorically, then inevitably in practice, with enemies who ALSO loathe you.
But an American just CAN’T believe in nothing, CAN’T reject the philosophy underpinning America, and be one. Philosophy IS America. There’s nothing else to base it on, and there’s no “philosophy on the side” option. There’s no “shared values” or that bullshit. There’s a piece of paper that lays out precisely how the government functions, tells it what it doesn’t get to do, and tells YOU to go shift for yourself. Now yeah, maybe you can quibble with a point or two of it. Lots of people did then, too. But people who reject, wholesale, that that makes sense as the foundation of a country- who complain about negative rights, who call the constitution outdated- de facto, aren’t American, the same way you couldn’t be a Catholic but not believe in G*d. Aphilosophical American is a contradiction in terms. The most they can do is live somewhere between Mexico and Canada. We’ve got a lot of that kind of “American”.
But nationalism is only a problem when it starts to supersede rather than represent a people. The American people, left mostly to their own devices, with most of their own money and most of their own time, even if they only SORT OF try to adhere to their founding principles, can turn the world upside down. It’s not because of any particular genetic, ethnographic, economic, or so on reason. You could do it with anyone… they’d just have to agree to the challenging but rewarding terms of freedom, which historically much of humanity would rather trade for security. But America, the national body- the government bureaucrats meant to represent the people, who increasingly act in contravention of same- that America cannot find its ass with both hands. It’s just the resurgence of a far inferior product coming back under a much more successful and respected brand.
One of the lines you can draw between right and left is, when a conservative roots for America, they mean the individual entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, and scholars- the millions of little people who even now, every so often, by the grace of determination, judicious risk taking, and hard work, manage to do a few really big things. When a liberal roots for “America”, they back the bully-boys in the government with the private jets… the big institutions that nevertheless manage routinely to fuck up thousands of little things.
THAT’S the form of nationalism that’s toxic.
Let’s go back to what Sam said “Philosophy IS America.” If you don’t believe in the founding principles, you’re not an American. You’re at best a permanent resident who grew up here and behaves generally within the law.
We’re a volitional citizenship. Yes, if you were born here, you are LEGALLY an American. You can legally be a lot of things that you’re not even close to being in reality. Take all the college people running around screaming they want to be protected from micro-micro aggressions. They are legally adults.
My younger kid is also legally an adult, and although closer to an adult than most of the micro-aggressed, he still lives at home and has never had to provide for his daily upkeep. He’s a legal adult, but not an adult like say any of you who have to work for a living. (We let him only because he’s taking two stem degrees concurrently and not taking accommodations for his sensory issues.)
Do I think it was a mistake of the founders to allow citizenship of birth in a nation of volition? You bet your beepy I do. They got so much right, though, and they were only human. They couldn’t believe anyone born here, enjoying the blessings of liberty could possibly wish to believe that a system where “we belong to the government” is better.
They were wrong. In a way, again, understandable, since they’d given their life, their fortunes, their sacred honor for this endeavor and many lost it. (Read a book called Signing their lives away, if you haven’t yet.) On the other hand, not understandable, since they knew how revolutionary their system was. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? You must be mad. The government as a servant to the sovereign citizen? Cooee, what world do you come from? Separation of powers to make it difficult to “get things done”? Mister, you must be one of them escapees from the asylum.
And yet — and yet — some of us are very much citizens of the volitional nation. We embrace the vision of the founders, we work to protect the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. We took an oath, and we keep it.
Come on. Go ahead and take it. Take it by yourself in the privacy of your heart; take it with your family; take it with a co-worker.
Take the oath. Then keep it.
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen [or a moonstruck admirer for those on the right and left who think those people abroad have a better idea- sah]; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”