Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Politics: Last Refuge of Scoundrels?

TORONTO, ONTARIO - A few weeks ago, Walter Rodgers chose to write in his Christian Science Monitor column about the ring's wing perversion of patriotism in the past decade. I think he actually lets the right wing off easy--whenever I've actually been confronted by the kinds of people he describes in the article, I didn't just have my patriotism attacked. They didn't say "you're not a real American" or "you don't love your country as much as I do" or even "you support the terrorists" or some-such.

Instead, they seemed to just assume all that was the case and went straight to "people like you are the biggest threat to the future of the country that has ever existed in its history" and "you should have no right to live in this country." Exactly what line I had crossed to provoke such language was never clear, though any opposition to any aspect of the Patriot Act seemed to be enough (how could an opponent of the "Patriot Act" be anything but "unpatriotic," I guess). Even more strange is exactly where they thought I should go, if I should not be allowed to live in the United States. I seem to have found somewhere, but did they really expect the millions of people that opposed aspects of the Patriot Act or that didn't support the Iraq War to all move to Canada?

Rodgers wrote his column before South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, normally one of the less divisive Republicans, made his comments about repealing the portion of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution which makes children born to illegal immigrants citizens when born on US soil. I actually have mixed feelings about that issue--most of the rest of the world's countries don't grant citizenship in such situations, but then again most of the people actually calling for a change in the 14th amendment are the same people that seemed to think I had no right to live in the country, either. Is there a slippery slope from one to the other? One wouldn't think so, but that's thinking logically. If the people that don't think children of illegal immigrants are legitimate citizens also don't think I'm a legitimate citizen, what's to stop them from finding a way to take away my citizenship? Just because they'd need to deport millions of people doesn't seem to phase them.

Rodgers points out that people can't even agree what constitutes patriotism anymore, but again I don't think he takes that idea far enough. Each side thinks the other is ruining what made the United States great, though only one is explicitly invoking patriotism. Thus, we can't even agree about how to apply Samuel Johnson's famous 1775 quote, from before the United States was even born, that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." (Funny how the left won't invoke "original intent" on that one.)

The sad thing about the right's perversion of patriotism is that they may have made meaningless the very concept that they were trying to monopolize, denying the United States one of its elements of cohesion that served it well for more than 200 years.

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