Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Judging by the explosions, there are a lot of patriots in my neighborhood.
Patriotism makes me nervous. It seems to require a wholesale suspension of judgement, and a memory of history riddled with more holes than a speed limit sign in rural Texas. It is not, as Dr. Johnson said, "the last refuge of a scoundrel." Rather, it is a well-worn tool from the tool kit of every scoundrel engaged in politics.
There are those who maintain that patriotism somehow is different from nationalism, but they fail to explain just how it is different. Interestingly, no matter how different the nation-states or ruling elites that use it, the forms and functions of patriotism remain remarkably consistent. Its imagery is militaristic, and so is its central demand: unquestioning allegiance to the State.
Patriotism is so closely related to and interwoven with religious fervor that the two often are indistinguishable. Every "just war" is jihad, every "fallen hero" a martyr. Ideology displaces rationality; symbolism justifies devastation.
(It's gone quiet out there. Is it still the American Century? I guess we'll have to wait and see.)