Sunday, October 29, 2006
A Dixie Chick on patriotism:
With their movie out about the controversy following statements made during their London concert in early 2003, it's interesting to note this comment
by Natalie Maines:
"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country… I don't see why people care about patriotism."
15 June 2006
Wikipedia states that this remark stirred up controversy, but I don't recall reading anything about it at the time - and only now learned of it while Wikipedia-ing on the Dixie Chicks. In any event, it's not often you hear somebody dismiss patriotism. Isn't patriotism what everyone along the political spectrum is supposed to be in favor of? (Chomsky fans excepted.)
In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary, "patriotism" is defined as the
last resort of the scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened
but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first.
- Ambrose Bierce
Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.
- George Bernard Shaw (attributed)
I think the US is too large and diverse to be patriotic about (uh oh).
I certainly have no reason to wax poetic about Kansas. No matter how many fields of grain they may or may not have.
However, I do have strong feelings about New England, well, Massachusetts. Or rather, the part of Massachusetts east of 495. At least, the part north of Boston. I mean, Essex county.
The problem these days is that patriotism and nationalism tend to run hand in hand and they absolutely shouldn't. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Orwell's essay on nationalism:
If not, it's more or less required reading.
Patriotism in the USA generally means jingosim, and leans really strongly to one and only one interpretation of "my country right or wrong". "my country right or wrong" could mean "it's my country and I've got to take responsibility for what it does wrong, as well as credit for what it does right". But usually it means "whether my country is right or wrong, it's always right".
"Man is the only animal that deals in the atrocity of war. He's the only one that for sordid wages goes forth in cold blood to exterminate his own kind. He has a motto for this, 'Our country right or wrong.' Any man who fails to shout it is a traitor. Only the others are patriots."
"Say, who is the country? Is it the government? In a republic, the government is merely a servant, a temporary one. Its function is to obey orders not originate them. Only when the republic's life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it's wrong. Otherwise the nation has sold its honor for a phrase.
"And if that phrase needs help he gets another one, 'Even though the war be wrong, we are in it. We must fight it out. We cannot retire without dishonor.'
"Why, not even a burglar could have said that better."
One has zero control over where their mommy squirts them out. To be proud of where your mother's feet were planted upon your birthday strikes me as narcissistic. Like being proud of having blonde hair or being 6'2" tall. What and where we are is not our choice.
An immigrant would have more claim to patriotism than any natural born citizen. Irony is plentiful these days.