Wednesday, July 2, 2008

That’s Not Patriotism

Larisa Alexandrovna teaches Jonah Goldberg a lesson in the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

When someone is critical of their country and especially when their country strays from its course, it does not mean the person is not patriotic. It means that the person loves their country enough to want only the best for it. They want it to be greater than what it already is or they want it to be as great as it once was. But criticism of a country is not akin to being un-patriotic. Only a rabid nationalist would make such an argument and only Goldberg manages to continue to do it this badly. After all, this is the same man who authored “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning” and in all seriousness.

Nationalists, rabid right-wing advocates of symbol worship, on the other hand are entirely what Goldberg and his ilk define as patriots. It may entirely be possible that some of these boot-marching androids are simply ignorant and accept whatever canned-pro-America products they are sold. They are in essence, the perfect vessel for an authoritarian regime. But others, like Goldberg, who have spent their lives devoting themselves to the art of conflation, distortion, and revisionism, know exactly what they are doing.

[…]

Goldberg proves my point entirely when he goes on to define patriotism and actually ends up defining nationalism (while claiming to be differentiating the two):

“Definitions of patriotism proliferate, but in the American context patriotism must involve not only devotion to American texts (something that distinguishes our patriotism from European nationalism) but also an abiding belief in the inherent and enduring goodness of the American nation. We might need to change this or that policy or law, fix this or that problem, but at the end of the day the patriotic American believes that America is fundamentally good as it is.”

In other words, your government can do no wrong. You must never doubt your government or question its ways. So when my America began to openly torture people and publicly denounced the Geneva Conventions as “quaint,” I should have been waving my little Chinese made American flag while admiring the inherent goodness of my government. According to Goldberg, it is not the defense of the Constitution or the liberty it guarantees or even a simple love of country that makes us patriots. No, for Goldberg and his kind, the “true patriot” must surrender their reason and their conscience, and simply know (without knowing in any meaningful way) that their government can do no wrong.

By that definition, Jonah Goldberg was a traitor during the Clinton administration because he waged a war against the duly-elected president and did everything he could to get him out of office. So why wasn’t he clapped in irons and tried for treason?