Saturday, January 31, 2009
The Outrage of Patriotism
As some of you may know, I have written many articles critical of many things. Most often, of course, I've been critical of that dangerous Religion of Peace, called Islam. However, I have also found time to criticize feminists, liberals, Mexican-Americans, and even the Queen of England. But, no other article I have ever written has generated more angry hate mail, nor more malicious personal attacks than a short piece I wrote earlier this week.
No, it wasn't that one about those deadly Mohammad cartoons; and it wasn't that piece about the Jews and anti-semitism -- which I was certain would receive all kinds of objectionable comments, but actually received none.
The article that generated the most vicious and hateful responses -- even more than any of my anti-Islam pieces -- was that short essay I wrote in praise of America, A Brief Message to America. Even some of those people who had previously been generally acceptive of my point of view got upset enough to let me know about it. In sum, the common theme of these protests was that the article in question was "disgusting" and made them "sick". A lot of jokes about running to get the bucket. One angry commenter accused me of "never having written anything of value since I first started posting". I had, till then, never experienced real unmittigated visceral hatred for something I had written.
Evidently, the subject of patriotism is even more inflammatory and controversial than the subject of anti-semitism. What, I wonder, does this say about us here, today, in America? What does this tell us about ourselves that we don't already know? Do you find this as revealing as I do?
In general, I am being accused of two major personal faults: either being a "phony" or a "fool". To me, a phony is someone who says things that they don't really mean; therefore I am not a phony. As to being a fool, I suppose that's for others to decide. Some ninety per cent of the hate mail came from right here in the U.S. -- although, surprisingly, some of the most disturbing came from -- of all places -- New Zealand.
However, I am also happy to report that this little article unapologetically extolling the virtually-ignored virtues of America and Americans also garnered some of the warmest and most genuinely supportive comments I have ever gotten for any other piece (including, to my surprise, Fox News). The most fulsome praise for that article's praise of America came -- not surprisingly -- from our loyal allies in Australia.
The article is just an article -- but the reactions are significant. Significant and disturbing. This is the nature of our current and growing 'civil war'. These are the enemies we face.
For me, being patriotic is as natural and uncomplicated as loving your parents.
Are our parents without fault? Do they sometimes make mistakes? (although, I must admit, the older I get the less mistakes they seem to have made) The answer to both is of course, Yes. But they are our parents and we love them, don't we? We love them and we honor them, because they are good and they are decent and they have raised us up and nurtured us and protected us from harm to the best of their ability. And, again, the older I get, the more I appreciate how much they sacrificed for me so that I could have a chance at leading a free and productive life.
When I was an adolescent, I thought as an adolescent, and I was more than eager to find fault with them and with all of their 'phony values' and with the way they looked at this world. And I rebelled against them, as I rebelled against all authority figures and all of those loathsome symbols of The Establishment. In this way I was, of course, being a perfect conformist; conforming to the expectations of rebellious adolescence.
Thankfully, and finally, I've grown up now. After September 11, 2001, I've grown up even more -- as I'm sure a lot of us here have.
Over these past years, something has become increasingly apparent to me, a little theory of mine, which I can of course in no way corroborate with facts. It is simply this: the people I have known in my life who seem to be the most productive, the happiest, the most at ease with themselves and this world, are those people who speak of their parents with simple, unreserved affection, loyalty and love. Whether these were attributes which had always been present, or whether they were learned later on through life's experience -- as mine were -- they were almost invariably present and obvious.
I pity our enemies, for I think that they are unhappy and empty, I pity them as I pity all of those current rebellious adolescents who, for the sake of conforming to some perceived convention, have turned on their parents and their country and learned how to despise them and everything they stand for.
Maybe, if they live long enough...
Published in the Chicago Sun Times 3/4/08
A Brief Message to America