Barack Obama

I Got Yer Patriotism Right Here

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Oh, goody. Seems that John McCain's National Greatness Conservatives aren't the only ones who think what the world needs now is more Teddy Roosevelt. In a column that starts off with a discussion of Barack Obama's flag pins and then gets even sillier, the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne is proud to bring you the news that for lefties, T.R. is still hot, sexy, and dead.

The reaction of too many progressives to patriotism is "automatic, allergic recoil," say two young Seattle writers, Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, in their important book "The True Patriot."

Instead of recoil, they offer rigorous standards for what patriotism should be. "True patriots," they write, "believe that freedom from responsibility is selfishness; freedom from sacrifice is cowardice; freedom from tolerance is prejudice; freedom from stewardship is exploitation; and freedom from compassion is cruelty."

Their new progressive patriotism bears some resemblance to the old progressive patriotism of Theodore Roosevelt. "We cannot meet the future," Roosevelt said in a 1916 Memorial Day speech, "either by mere gross materialism or by mere silly sentimentalism; above all, we cannot meet it if we attempt to balance gross materialism in action by silly sentimentalism in words."

For good measure, the trust-buster also declared that "the big business man" must "recognize the fact that his business activities, while beneficial to himself and his associates, must also justify themselves by being beneficial to the men who work for him and to the public which he serves."

And what of the would-be progressive-in-chief?

Obama already has the template for moving the debate in this direction. In December, he gave one of his best, and least noticed, speeches: a call to national service. The policies he proposed include a doubling of the Peace Corps and an expansion of the AmeriCorps program from 75,000 to 250,000 slots. […]

Pinch-hitting for Ted Kennedy as the commencement speaker at Wesleyan University on Sunday, Obama revisited the themes of his December speech and explicitly renewed JFK's call, promising that "service to a greater good" would be "a cause of my presidency."

A competition between Obama and McCain over who can issue the most compelling summons to service would serve the country far better than an empty rhetorical skirmish over which of these candidates is the true patriot.

Lord, how I despise every inch of this conversation. There is something juvenile yet creepy?not unlike watching Uncle Todd wave his penis?with the spectacle of people who wake up in the morning dreaming up new ways to draw the precise boundaries around what it means to be sufficiently patriotic. Especially when the definition of patriotism is in opposition to enumerated freedoms.

And there's something both authoritarian and myopic with the bizarre notion, mouthed constantly by politicians, that the most authentic manifestations of patriotism are military service, government employment, and "community organizing" … as opposed to say, hitchhiking around the Americas, or getting (maybe even creating!) a damned job doing something you love.

As for pining for presidential candidates to wow the nation with calls to sacrifice that you yourself will never make … I'm sure there's a word for that, but it sure the fuck ain't "patriotic."

In the May issue, Paul Thornton called National Service by its proper name ? generational warfare.

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  1. Doubling-plus the slots available for AmeriCorps and Peace Corps? Be still, my beating heart… I didn’t know they had much demand at all for either. Obama could open up a million slots if he wanted… he’d just have 90-95% of them empty short of one of those crazy “you must do national service in order to qualify for federal student loans” things that both he and McCain have hinted at.

    Peace Corps… sending effete, pampered malchiks off someplace to feel good about themselves on the government dime since 1961.

  2. Lord, how I despise every inch of this conversation.

    Amen. I didn’t think there could be anything more repulsive than National Greatness conservatism, but National Greatness progressivism beats it.

    “Serve the state.” Fuck you, scumbags.

    You want to see young people actually vote? This might do it.

  3. As for pining for presidential candidates to wow the nation with calls to sacrifice that you yourself will never make … I’m sure there’s a word for that, but it sure the fuck ain’t “patriotic.”

    QFMFT!

  4. There is something juvenile yet creepy?not unlike watching Uncle Todd wave his penis?with the spectacle of people who wake up in the morning dreaming up new ways to draw the precise boundaries around what it means to be sufficiently….

    Sounds like joe’s arguments on about any subject.

  5. “the greater good”

  6. First off, Matt Welch for Motherfucking President. You think I jest, but I’m serious.

    Second, who in the hell are Eric Liu and Nick Hannauer? Two minutes ago I hadn’t heard of them and now they’re telling me what to do and what to believe? Because good forbid I shouldn’t want to be a “true patriot?”

    Here’s an idea. America is a free country. True patriots don’t try to impose their ideas on neighbors or, a fortiori, conscript them into service.

    True patriots know how to mind their own business AND voluntarily help friends and neighbors in need. True patriots view their government with extreme prejudice.

    Eric Liu and Nick Hannauer are politely advised to go fuck themselves.

    E.J. Dionne, the former libertarian(!), should know better.

  7. If you’re confused as to why such proposals make sense to anyone, be advised that this will make more sense to you once the Living Wage is implemented. At that point most young people aren’t going to have anything legal to do except volunteer.

  8. A real patriot does what is best for his country, even if, or especially if, it is in opposition to what his government tells him to do.

  9. …in their important book “The True Patriot.”

    I’ll be putting this on my list of “important” books to read after I’m dead.

  10. Here’s one unfortunate reason to volunteer while young.

    Estimated April unemployment rate, ages 25+: 3.9%
    Estimated April unemployment rate, ages 16-24: 11.0%

  11. December, he gave one of his best, and least noticed, speeches: a call to national service.

    Barack Obama will bring back the draft.

  12. I didn’t think there could be anything more repulsive than National Greatness conservatism, but National Greatness progressivism beats it.

    I’m sorry but I’m not seeing the difference.

    “Serve the state.”

    or

    “Suck off your president.”

    See? Not much difference.

  13. Not much difference?

    “believe that freedom from responsibility is selfishness; freedom from sacrifice is cowardice; freedom from tolerance is prejudice; freedom from stewardship is exploitation; and freedom from compassion is cruelty.”

    Don’t you find that even creepier than McCain’s bullshit? Note that I am not diminishing the awfulness of McCain’s attitude.

  14. As for pining for presidential candidates to wow the nation with calls to sacrifice that you yourself will never make … I’m sure there’s a word for that, but it sure the fuck ain’t “patriotic.”

    I’ve got twenty bucks that says most of the “progressives” pushing “national service” sacrifice by others were shouting down those of us who thought deposing Saddam Hussein was the least bad strategic option with accusations we were “chickenhawks.”

  15. freedom from sacrifice is cowardice

    I didn’t realize that if you forced me to sacrifice something that I’d suddenly become brave. Just like if you force people to follow the rules of the bible they suddenly become virtuous.

    Some people are just fucked in the head.

  16. Compliant obediance is not the same as patriotism.

    Similarly, dissent is not treason.

  17. “Serve the state.” From such simple words, the mighty Soylent Corporation sprang into being in 2011.

  18. “Serve the state.” From such simple words, the mighty Soylent Corporation sprang into being in 2011.

    That reminds me of one of my favorite rejoinders to a bumper sticker that’s rather common around the college town I live in… the bumper sticker says “Democrats Serve The People”. I took it, and said “Democrats Serve The People… With Fries And Cole Slaw.”

  19. Obama has said many times that TR is his favorite Republican president.

  20. Obama has said many times that TR is his favorite Republican president.

    More favoriter than Honest Abe?

  21. You shouldn’t be so hard on these people.

    If you were a paternalistic know-it-all/do-gooder with commie/totalitarian/fascist tendencies you too would be keen on quasi-militaristic Hitler Youth type conscription schemes.

    Jeez, give them a break.

  22. Similarly, dissent is not treason.

    It can be. You might say that treason is a (small) subcategory of dissent.

    I didn’t realize that if you forced me to sacrifice something that I’d suddenly become brave.

    The fundamental disconnect in progressive/collectivist thinking is that the do not understand that virtues such as bravery, generosity, etc., can arise only as freely made choices. If I give you $20 bucks because you are hungry, I am virtuous; if you take $20 from me over my objections, you are a thief. What is virtue when freely chosen is something else entirely when imposed.

  23. You might say that treason is a (small) subcategory of dissent.

    Bull. Shit.

    Pure bullshit. Please show an instance where the act of dissent gives real aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

  24. You want to see young people actually vote? This might do it.

    Unfortunately, most people are at the peak of their idealism at that age. They may well vote for mandatory national service out of some misplaced sense of duty to the community or something. 18-22s have never been known for acting solely on sober rationality (of course I was no different, believe me).

  25. They may well vote for mandatory national service out of some misplaced sense of duty to the community or something.

    Dude, that’s crazy. The number of youngsters who will affirmatively vote to have themselves forced into national service is miniscule, seeing as those who are for it have already volunteered for the Peace Corps or joined the military (where they at least get paid).

    Even some stoned idiot totally grooving on leftist ideals that he learned the first two weeks of college isn’t going to vote for this.

    Kids don’t generally vote for things, but they will vote against things that can directly affect them. Using myself as an example, I couldn’t have had less interest in going to the ballot box when 20, but if you had said that they were bringing back the draft and I could vote against it I would have been there in a heartbeat.

  26. The policies he proposed include a doubling of the Peace Corps and an expansion of the AmeriCorps program from 75,000 to 250,000 slots.

    The folks who really have the time, experience, and resources to fill these slots are retirees who can support themselves on their IRAs while they camp out in screen huts to save the world.

    Let me know when AARP calls for its members to be drafted.

    Estimated April unemployment rate, ages 16-24: 11.0%

    Of course this demographic includes all the high school dropouts.

    You might say that treason is a (small) subcategory of dissent.

    “Treason” is any dissent the government is powerful enough to arrest you for.

  27. “Freedom without GenericVirtue is GenericVice” == “Genuine Freedom is Bad”

  28. Hillary Blogs
    Obamas resume
    Want to know the difference between Clinton and Obama supporters
    And Find out What has been bothering me

    This and more on?

    http://sensico.wordpress.com/

  29. Pure bullshit. Please show an instance where the act of dissent gives real aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.
    The Rosenbergs. That took no time at all.

  30. I would just like to issue a small note of dissent and say overall, Obama was not calling for compulsory service, rather volunteering in the ‘thousand points of light’ vein.

    Yes, I know the tone of the following sets everyone off (it does me to some extent):

    Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, though you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, though you do have that debt. It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.

    But, it should be stressed he’s not calling for anything mandatory.

  31. And it wasn’t even tough.

  32. I lost all respect for progressives when I read their early theories of progressive cultural evolution.

  33. And I believe in the family – Mom and Dad and Grandma.. and Uncle Tom, who waves his penis.

    And I believe 8 of the 10 Commandments.

    And I believe in going to church every Sunday, unless there’s a game on.

    And I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, wholesome and natural things.. that money can buy.

    And I believe it’s derogatory to refer to a woman’s breasts as “boobs”, “jugs”, “winnebagos” or “golden bozos”.. and that you should only refer to them as “hooters”.

    And I believe you should put a woman on a pedestal.. high enough so you can look up her dress.

    And I believe in equality, equality for everyone.. no matter how stupid they are, or how much better I am than they are.

  34. The Rosenbergs. That took no time at all.

    The difference between free dissenting expression and nuclear fucking espionage is apparently lost on the commenters today.

  35. Considering the fact that the US was not at war with the Soviet Union at the time of the Rosenbergs’ activities, by definition they could not and did not give aid and comfort to any enemy.

    The Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage, not treason. For the simple reason that they didn’t commit treason.

  36. By the way, I personally am more contemptuous of McCain than Obama on this issue.

    They employ essentially identical rhetoric [it’s practically word for word]. But if a Democrat is a communitarian, that is to be expected. If a Republican – who in different contexts dishonestly mouths the slogans of liberty – I am much, much more outraged. A pig in a pigsty offends me more than a pig who has set up shop in my living room.

  37. Please show an instance where the act of dissent gives real aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

    Axis Sally?

    One or more of the Lord Haw-Haws (technincally, English traitors) or Tokyo Roses (if any were American citizens)?

    Jane Fonda’s anti-American/pro-VC propaganda, perhaps?

  38. All of this sounds like the best argument I’ve yet heard to vote for Bob Barr.

  39. @Martin

    I don’t know who you are – but I like you!

  40. The difference between free dissenting expression and nuclear fucking espionage is apparently lost on the commenters today.

    I don’t think anyone here is saying there isn’t a difference between dissent and treason. What I’m hearing from R C Dean, for example, is “You might say that treason is a (small) subcategory of dissent.”

    In other words: All treason is dissent, but not all dissent is treason. If you commit treason, it must be because you disagree with your government about something, but the vast, overwhelming majority of such disagreement does not take the form of treasonous acts.

    It’s not that dissent is treason, it’s that dissent includes treason. The Venn diagram would have the “treason” circle entirely (or at least partially) enclosed within the much, much larger “dissent” circle.

    And arguably, one example of an act of dissent that was also an act of treason would be issuing the Declaration of Independence.

  41. Salvius,

    Except that for many of us libertarians we don’t Dissent from the government as laid out in the Constitution, but we are Treasonous towards the regime that has abrogated it.

  42. As a wise man once said: “All of Alma Cogan is dead; but only some of the class of dead people are Alma Cogan.”

  43. freedom from tolerance is prejudice; freedom from stewardship is exploitation

    So now I’ve had my “WTF” moment for the month.

    I really can’t make head or tail of those, especially with the preposition “from” rather than “of”. What can it possibly mean to be free from tolerance? Free of tolerance I could understand and then it would make sense, but there’s got to be some reason for “from”. Tolerance is one of those things that can’t possibly be imposed on someone, so how could you be free from it? But if you said, “Freedom of tolerance is prejudice”, well duh, thanks for the tautology.

    Is freedom from stewardship a condition in which one is not a steward, or is it not being stewarded by someone else? And then is the exploitation by the person in question or of the person in question? Still, no combination those senses makes sense. If nobody’s stewarding you, you’re being exploited? If nobody’s stewarding you, you’re exploiting someone else? If you’re not stewarding someone, you’re exploiting hir (or someone else)? If you’re not stewarding someone, someone’s exploiting you?

  44. I would just like to issue a small note of dissent treason and say overall, Obama was not calling for compulsory service, rather volunteering in the ‘thousand points of light’ vein … But, it should be stressed he’s not calling for anything mandatory.

    Yet. That sort of stuff is generally sprung after the election, when it becomes apparent that voluntary measures aren’t getting the desired results.

  45. Axis Sally?

    One or more of the Lord Haw-Haws (technincally, English traitors) or Tokyo Roses (if any were American citizens)?

    Those people were (if they existed) working in the pay of an actual enemy during a time of war. They weren’t simply expressing views against the US govt, they were part of an orchestrated campaign set up by the enemy.

    Jane Fonda’s actions didn’t rise to the level of treason.

    True, some people who dissent also commit treason, but that doesn’t mean that their dissent itself was treason; any more than murder is a subset of gun possession because some who possess guns commit murder.

  46. Those people were (if they existed) working in the pay of an actual enemy during a time of war. They weren’t simply expressing views against the US govt, they were part of an orchestrated campaign set up by the enemy.

    Oh, they existed alright. Axis Sally was an American citizen convicted of treason after the war, even though her defense was that her broadcasts were mere dissent protected by the First Amendment.

    It doesn’t matter for either First Amendment purposes or for treason purposes if you are funded or being directed by a foreign government, you know.

    Jane Fonda’s actions didn’t rise to the level of treason.

    Why not?

    And arguably, one example of an act of dissent that was also an act of treason would be issuing the Declaration of Independence.

    Much better than my examples.

  47. True, some people who dissent also commit treason, but that doesn’t mean that their dissent itself was treason;

    It depends on the dissent, doesn’t it? Dissent can give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, in which case it meets the definition of treason in the Constitution. There are certainly other flavors of treason that don’t overlap with dissent, but I think its pretty clear that it is possible to both dissent and commit treason at the same time.

  48. It doesn’t matter for either First Amendment purposes or for treason purposes if you are funded or being directed by a foreign government, you know.

    Article III Section 3 seems to disagree:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

  49. In other words, to meet the level of treason you don’t just have to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the US, you have to adhere to them. Now I question the degree to which the expression of an opinion against the US gives any substantial aid or comfort to an enemy, but certainly an overt act of “adhering to” them would not fall under the meaning of dissent.

  50. While it’s not impossible for mere speech to constitute treason (or something treason-like–the crime of treason in the U.S. is very difficult to prove, for historical reasons), I’d say that it’s generally unlikely. Some affirmative action will usually need to accompany the speech in question.

    Though I suppose one could post troop movements on a web site during a war. That’s speech that constitutes something like treason (and could even be subject to prior restraint).

  51. ProL,

    Broadcasting troop movements would certainly constitute treason, but I don’t see how that could be labeled dissent. I mean, a person who does something like that is probably also dissenting, but the dissent is separate from that action.

  52. Chris Potter | May 27, 2008, 11:24am | #
    You want to see young people actually vote? This might do it.

    Unfortunately, most people are at the peak of their idealism at that age. They may well vote for mandatory national service

    Where did the word “mandatory” come in?

  53. “I disagree with America’s war in Iraq, which is why I’m telling you that X troops are going to do X next Thursday.” See?

  54. ProL,

    The first half of the sentence is an expression of dissent, the second half is treason. They’re separate acts. It’s sort of like someone saying, “I don’t like your hairstyle, so I’m going to kill you” doesn’t make commenting on someone’s hair style into a death threat.

  55. I should say, it doesn’t make it right to say “some death threats are comments on hair styles”.

  56. I suppose. While I think there are better examples than mine, as a rule, I don’t think mere dissent should often constitute treason. For instance, it should be totally legal for someone to publicly state a wish that he hopes that Iran kicks our ass.

  57. Of course, all of us (including me) are arguing over semantics, but when you’ve got a lot of people essentially saying any dissent from the war policy is treason, I don’t want to let the clear boundary between the two be blurred. If we split hairs over the seemingly innocuous statement “some dissent is treason”, we won’t have to worry about “all dissent is treason” gaining credence.

  58. For instance, it should be totally legal for someone to publicly state a wish that he hopes that Iran kicks our ass.

    Absolutely, inserting standard disclaimer that such a person should be non-coercively shunned from polite society. Trouble is, a lot of people would say that saying that constitutes “aid and comfort” to Iran, because they may take encouragement from it, and because it may discourage our own troops. To me, the aid and comfort has to be more material than mere encouragement or discouragement.

  59. It doesn’t matter for either First Amendment purposes or for treason purposes if you are funded or being directed by a foreign government, you know.

    Article III Section 3 seems to disagree:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

    I don’t know that “adhering” means “funded by and/or under the direction of. I think it probably means “supporting”. See, e.g., Webster’s, def. 2 (To hold, be attached, or devoted; to remain fixed, either by personal union or conformity of faith, principle, or opinion; as, men adhere to a party, a cause, a leader, a church.)

  60. Of course, all of us (including me) are arguing over semantics,

    Agree.

    but when you’ve got a lot of people essentially saying any dissent from the war policy is treason,

    That smells of straw to me.

    I don’t want to let the clear boundary between the two be blurred.

    Me neither. That’s why we need to make sure that the distinctions are fully understood, and elided with a false dichotomy that can be easily refuted.

    Really, my irritation on this subject comes from the fatuous “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” nostrum. No, its not. Some dissent can be quite constructive and patriotic, some is basically content-free, and (at the very extreme), dissent can actually be treasonous.

  61. oops. Should be “and not elided”.

  62. For instance, it should be totally legal for someone to publicly state a wish that he hopes that Iran kicks our ass.

    Sure, unless his “dissent” occurs while we are at war with Iran and is made in a context that gives aid and comfort to Iran.

  63. Which of the two following statements are treasonous? Check one, both, or none:

    Global warming is just a theory.

    Evolution is just a theory.

  64. R C Dean,

    I don’t want to go too far down this road, but I am concerned about the idea that someone objecting to the war can get locked up for his opinion. Given the Jane Fonda example, it’s unlikely we’d actually lock someone up for merely favoring the other side’s cause publicly–if hanging out with the enemy isn’t enough to constitute “aid and comfort, then saying some nice things about the enemy definitely isn’t.

    I agree that mere dissent isn’t holy in and of itself. It’s the right to dissent that’s critical. We’ve got to be able to object to things like wars, even while they’re happening. War or other national crisis is not a trump on our right to speak out against injustice, illegality, etc.

    Paul,

    None of the above?

  65. and (at the very extreme), dissent can actually be treasonous.

    No, I would disagree. Yes, this is semantic, but if words are going to have some standard, generally understood, meaning then I don’t think there is any way to conflate even a small subcategory of “dissent” in and of itself, with an act of treason. Dissent is disagreement and difference of opinion and no difference of opinion, in and of itself, should ever be considered treason.

    Treason should be confined to concrete (non-abstract) help rendered to an enemy in the form of providing such things as intelligence, food, shelter, etc. which physically helps an enemy to continue its fight. It must not be allowed to expand to include merely expressing sentiments that an enemy might find psychologically (as opposed to physically) “comforting”. To do so would be to do essentially what critics have claimed, and what RC Dean says smells of straw — that is to render any disagreement with the current prosecution of a war, up to and including its justness or legality, a potential act of treason because it could be plausibly argued that such dissent may psychologically “comfort” an enemy.

    Sure, unless his “dissent” occurs while we are at war with Iran and is made in a context that gives aid and comfort to Iran.

    And in exactly what kind of context could that statement possibly give “comfort” to Iran in a way that rises to the level of treason? Are you really ready to adopt a “psychological comfort” standard?

  66. Pro L.

    I don’t really know. I wrote those things, musing to myself that ‘treason’ is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. One, both or none can be seen as treasonous depending on who you talk to, I’ll bet.

  67. What Mr. Courts said.

    Of course, no discussion like this is complete without quoting John Harrington (1600):

    Treason doth never prosper; what’s the reason?
    For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

  68. Don’t you find that even creepier than McCain’s bullshit? Note that I am not diminishing the awfulness of McCain’s attitude.

    I remember being creeped out reading some of Matt’s stuff on McCain, and I’m creeped out now, but I’d have to have the comments side by side and compare them carefully to be sure which was worse. Unfortunately, I’ve nearly reached my recommended creepiness-per-week allowance already. Any more and I’ll have to grab the steel wool and soap and lock myself in the shower.

  69. Broadcasting troop movements would certainly constitute treason

    Fox News committed treason!

  70. William F. Buckley Jr. made a similar call to national service in his 1990 book “Gratitude”.

  71. “There is something juvenile yet creepy?not unlike watching Uncle Todd wave his penis…”

    Matt Welch proving, once again,that people trying to be funny by being vulgar usually come off looking like total jackasses.

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