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.