Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My "Country"

I was recently involved in a rather "spirited" conversation and debate of a political nature (big surprise), which mostly centered around my support of Barak Obama. As the conversation progressed, a person with contrary views (who's opinion I tend to respect and value greatly) raised the concern of Michelle Obama's views and the concept of black nationalism, as espoused by the likes of Jeremiah Wright, thereby attaching those views and concepts to Obama. My response to this assertion was that there are, in my humble opinion, certain aspects of those views that are correct - at least with respect to our nation's record vis-a-vis certain dark-skinned people, our current foreign policy, and our abysmal record when it comes to forays into imperialism (from the annexation of the Phillipines to our current role as global cop). The counter-response of said antagonist was, the rhetorical jibe, "Matthew, you hate this country, don't you?" Huh...? How does one respond to such a question? Well, my immediate response was two-fold: (1) an exclusively internal sense of amazement that the dreaded "with us or against us," "neo-patriotism," Sean Hannity-hate-America-bomb was being directed at me...? Really... me, hate my country? You can’t be serious… And (2) my actual verbal response that was something akin to stating that, "well, I suppose that I do dislike many things about this country" - something that any reader of this blog is sure to know. However, after a few days of reflection, I now wish that I had taken a different approach to the conversation, which would have been something more like this:
"Of course I do not hate 'my country,' because, such emotions are at best, misdirected, and, at worst, a complete waste of time and energy. To be clear, this "country," in the purely metaphysical sense, is nothing more than rather large chunk of real estate, recognized as a homogeneous unit, under a common flag and loosely organized by some very real, yet arbitrary, borders that have expanded over time (thanks to various expansionist adventures of various Presidents - including some I admire very much), but, alas, this is not the point. To love a 'country' for no reason other than physical placement, the happenstance of birth, tradition, or even, familial heritage is, in my opinion, childish, base and, ultimately, lazy. Love is earned. And to earn my love, I must find value in the object seeking such affection. That being said, and without diluting the import of this belief, I absolutely, without any doubts, love the idea of America - or, to be more precise, the Founding Fathers’ idea of America. This republic was crafted from the lessons of history. Mr. Madison and his brethren generously borrowed from the excellence offered by antiquity's ashed experiments in state craft and inter-mixed a few original and ingenious tweaks in efforts to codify their collective vision of a government that reflected the Lockean nature of man and the state. Our American republic was designed by men who recognized the infinite virtue of individualism and divided power and reflexively distrusted the ambition of men seeking "greatness," and the power of an expansive and centralized state. Yes, I do indeed love this aspect of America; but, to be more direct, I also, without equivocation, hate certain aspects of my government. I fear the ambition of men and women who seek the reigns of power as an end to itself. I have utter disdain for the notion that I owe some dutiful blind devotion to the state qua state. What, may I ask, has this state done to earn my respect or love? With relevance to the impending election, this is where Mr. McCain and I are at loggerheads and where I refuse to compromise. For I embody the state-directed cynism that he often chastises. I applaud the self-interested individualism that he condescendingly pities. Most importantly, I see no part of myself in the state that he claims deserves my self-sacrificial allegiance. Yes, I do possess a certain hatred for my government. And if the ‘country’ itself is culpable for the devolution of the noble idea of 1787, then the ‘country’ deserves its share of animus as well. Shortly after the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention, Franklin dared his fellow citizens ‘to keep’ the newly formed republic ‘if the can’ and, in my humble view, we have failed most miserably. For evidence, one need not look any further than the expansionist foreign policy that this government, sanctioned by various voting majorities, has pursued since roughly 1899. Such pursuits are an unforgivable affront to the revolutionary vision of the Founders – succinctly articulated by George Washington in his Farewell Address. Those men knew what history wrought upon the republican states that evolved into imperial behemoths and warned us accordingly; but, we have ignored those warnings and have thus abandoned the ideals of our revolution. An abandonment disgustingly reflected in the size, scope and power of the federal state that is, in large part, a direct outgrowth of wars (both domestic and foreign) and the so-called ‘noble and selfless service’ of ambitious leaders seeking greatness and glory. This is, precisely, what I oppose and hate. And if electing a man with whom I disagree on 75% of issues does anything to reverse this government's thirst for war and the leviathan’s growth ever-connected thereto, while simultaneously rejecting the other candidate who looks more like a Caesar than a Jefferson, then I think it's worth it."
My thoughts on on why the Republican ranks need to be purged here, here and here.