Some Thoughts on Political Words

And their relationship to ideas (or lack of them).

1. Patriotism.  This is a word I have truly grown to hate.  It’s used as a bludgeon.  In recent memory, anyone in the U.S. who criticized George W. Bush was unpatriotic; now anyone who supports Barack Obama is unpatriotic (as is he himself, it is said.)  The Republicans criticize the Democrats, conservatives criticize liberals (note, Republicans and conservatives and Democrats and liberals are not always the same animals) for being “unpatriotic”.  Find me one example of Democrats and/or liberals who accuse Republicans/conservatives of a lack of patriotism when they disagree. 

I was pleased to find a Wiki article which provides a quote from Socrates (!) defining  patriotism.  Patriotism, he says, “does not require one to agree with everything that his country does and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it can possibly be.” My sentiments exactly. 

But the U.S. version of patriotism, for many years now, is merely nationalism.  We are the best, and can do no wrong.  We deserve to rule the world.  If you want to make specious comparisons to Hitler’s Germany, there you have it.  And now I’ve done it…proved the truth of  Godwin’s Law.

2.  National Security.  Okay, that’s two words.  But like patriotism, its meaning is open to debate.  Everyone agrees that we should take action, including military action, to protect our national security.  But what does that mean?  Should we take action only in retaliation for physical attacks against our country (e.g. Pearl Harbor, 9/ll)?  Our invasion of Vietnam was based on a remote interpretation of our “national security” being at stake; more accurately, it was based on a faulty philosophy–remember the Domino Theory?  Our invasion of Iraq was simply based on lies.  Our invasion of Afghanistan was justified by the above definition.  The question now before us is whether we have irreparably botched it (due in large part to our invasion of Iraq), and whether or not our continued presence is relevant.  My personal opinion:  as angry as it makes me for our country to have uselessly invaded Iraq, I do not believe we can say “Oops!  My bad!  We made a mistake!  See ya!”  You do not go in and blow up someone’s country, and then abandon them summarily. 

But to say that we should intervene only in retaliation is too simplistic, in my view. 

3.  Politician.  This term is now synonymous with “liar” in  the U.S.  “Compromise” is likewise a dirty word, equated with “compromising your principles”.  Apparently we expect our politicians to be models of purity and inflexibility.  But “compromise” is how we exist socially.  We do it at work.  We do it in marriage.  We do it with our friends and families.  We do it with other (imperfect) countries.  Standing firm and never giving an inch of ground may be workable in the movies, but it’s no more realistic or believable than Cinderella being picked by the prince because her foot is the only one that fits the glass slipper.

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5 responses to “Some Thoughts on Political Words

  1. Well, it’s been said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

    And like “national security” and many other words, they are nothing less than an attempt to define the define.

    Rule #1 of debate is to never let the other side define the issue. The other side of that rule is, of course, for you to define the issue. Once the issue is defined “your way”, then it is often downhill to victory from there.

    And that is why abortion” is defined, by one side, as an issue of “choice”; but by the other side as “murder.”

    Even “murder” is am attempt to define an issue (killing) into “acceptable” and “unacceptable” types of killing. Which is why a number of “literal interpretation” Christians oppose all killing, such as death sentence, all war, etc.
    Which is why other Christians had to come up with “just” war, “just” price, etc….

  2. I have a clue about debate. In the 7th grade, I was obliged to argue a position I didn’t believe in as a member of the debate team. I guess that was supposed to teach me something. And it did. What it taught me is that winning a discussion isn’t everything.
    I hear you about killing. War, abortion, death penalty, self defense..is one “better” than another? My answer: yes.

  3. I have given this blog considerable thought over the last few days. It strikes at the heart of a recurring dilemma in American political and social development……political parties.

    Really understanding how we got to where we are helps. It is like meting a person at age 20 and then at age 60. Chances are there is sameness but a vast difference in the ensuing 40 years of life’s events. It is why I chose to study American history (and continue). We did not want political parties but there was no viable alternative option so we have them. Rest assured that they have always been about the same thing, the spoils and nepotism for the party in power. America was founded and ruled by the trilogy of religion, capitalism and expansionism, the primary capital was greed. Democracy enables the truly greedy to rise to the top more so than in autocratic countries. But there is a strange and underlying reverence for the untarnished narcotic of freedom, we are mainlining it and often ignore the fallout. “OUR FREEDOM IS FOR THE WORLD SO LETS GIVE IT TO THEM”

    “The Ruling Trilogy” quickly became conservative and often did their deals behind closed doors in the smoky rooms of America. The liberals were who were left, were largely intellectuals and creative folks without interest in the stuff conservatives’ value. As the world shrank (because of communication and transportation technology) we had more opportunity to impose our narcotic on anyone we chose. So we have and we do.

    The liberals have risen to share in this vision, they just have a different was of justifying it. Fortunately (my word) there have been enough conservatives in leadership roles to maintain a strong military to cover our asses no matter which of the parties of greed were in control.

    “Find me one example of Democrats and/or liberals who accuse Republicans/conservatives of a lack of patriotism when they disagree.”

    OK………The Rosenbergs………..

    And the following links provide more.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119296,00.html

    http://friskaliberal.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/a-brief-history-of-liberals-calling-opponents-unpatriotic/

    http://thumpandwhip.com/2009/07/03/dear-republicans-why-does-sarah-palin-use-the-american-flag-like-this-this-is-totally-unpatriotic-right/

    http://garymcavin.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/unpatriotic-capitalists/

    http://www.delawareliberal.net/2009/10/02/unpatriotic/

    “But the U.S. version of patriotism, for many years now, is merely nationalism. We are the best, and can do no wrong. We deserve to rule the world. If you want to make specious comparisons to Hitler’s Germany, there you have it. And now I’ve done it…proved the truth of Godwin’s Law.”
    We have been expansionistic since day one. And we have not cared really about who got in the way. We built the first National Highway and killed and dislocated Indians along its path. We have always been obsessed with conquering “space.” We do indeed believe that we are the Beacon on the Hill and have a sense of noblesse obleedge for the rest of the world. And don’t kid yourself, we have been the most envied country in the world since we won our independence. Go to Ellis Island and take the tour, study the history of the Irish Immigrants and the Asian. People who have given up their entire history and families to come here. They still do. Seems I read something about illegal immigration being a major problem in America today. I don’t recall the immigration numbers to Nazi Germany, do you?

    “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!”

    Captain Stephen Decatur 1816
    That is who we are. When you love someone you love them for all their warts.

    Lastly, did you see the story about the Vietnamese Navy Captain who just last week was the first such Officer to take a ship under his command into South Vietnam? He is a Naval Academy Graduate. His father, a former naval commander in South Vietnam fled to America and took a job bagging groceries his second day here.

    Political parties and the vitriolics of partisan politics is really nauseating the closer one gets to it, interestingly, those who have not been poisoned by it often flourish in the by product…….the land of the free.

  4. Damn pt, that was too much like homework. But I did check the links and stand corrected on liberals calling conservatives unpatriotic. But no excuse for it either way.
    You may love someone warts and all, but you would probably prefer they remove the warts. I love the U.S. but we are not always right and have done some pretty screwed up stuff. I don’t consider it patriotic to pretend that didn’t exist.

  5. “You may love someone warts and all, but you would probably prefer they remove the warts. I love the U.S. but we are not always right and have done some pretty screwed up stuff. I don’t consider it patriotic to pretend that didn’t exist.”

    Thats a start:) Next step would be to decide what to really do about that.

    How can YOU make a difference? Does it really matter if you do or don’t? Who is keeping score?

    Some people step up and others don’t. Those who actually step up take the reins, the others ………..well they don’t. Leaders aren’t always right, but they are always leaders…..as long as someone follows.

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