19 October 2009

The New Patriotism

(Razing the Servile State IV)

[T]here is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But...I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose.... ~ Thomas Jefferson.
Habit is the most shameful disease because it makes us accept any misfortune, any pain, any death. Through habit we live with odious people, we learn to bear chains, to submit to injustices, to suffer; we resign ourselves to sorrow, to solitude, to everything. Habit is the most merciless poison because it enters us slowly, silently, grows little by little, nourished on our unawareness, and when we discover we have it in us, our every fiber has adjusted to it, our every action is conditioned by it, there is no medicine in existence then that can cure us. ~ Orianna Fallaci, A Man


In this posting I mentioned a certain paradox involved in one of the dogmas underlying our own United Servile States of America, the dogma that the state is owed virtually unquestioned obedience, and to some extent, even a modicum of adoration, by its subjects. (And, if not the State, then, at least to some, the Head of State.) It's a paradox because this union of free and independent states owes its existence to the fact that the founders dared first to question and then to deny obedience to the British Crown. What I mean by "virtually unquestioned obedience" is that one may question, one may challenge, but in the end, after the questions and the challenges, one should obey. This mentality, if accepted by the Founders (excuse me, the so-called Founders), would have had the Boston Tea Party and similar acts, but never, ever, The Declaration of Independence. And certainly there would have been no war to pursue the ends set forth in the Declaration. The colonists questioned and challenged. But eventually, they also refused to obey. Big time. And what they refused to obey was an increasingly extra-constitutional government. A king who did not have to obey the laws was not worthy to receive obedience from his subjects.

Why did the Revolution come? (Actually, it was a secession, but never mind that just now.) Was it just a matter of high taxes? Did they just wake up and say, "We don't need this King business anymore"? The Revolution can be difficult to understand, because we just really don't understand the legal grounds set forth in the Declaration. The Declaration was much more than a bitch list; it was a list of charges and specifications. It was an indictment. The Declaration of Independence accused King George of violating the law of the land; he, the one whose office it was to enforce the laws had violated the most basic and important of those laws: the British constitution. The King of England may very well have desired to execute the revolutionaries as rebels, but that would have been an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. It was his own violation of the law, the argument in the Declaration goes, which effectively severed the ties between him and his subjects in the colonies. Having broken that law himself -- repeatedly -- he had no business insisting upon obedience. Furthermore, his own unlawful acts were acts of war against the colonies, making him the enemy of the colonies. (They may have been unduly influenced by Rutherford's Lex Rex.)

The Old Patriotism

The old patriots were a vastly different breed of men. Among other things, they would occasionally tar and feather tax collectors and customs officers. They objected to most of the laws they lived under because they objected to the idea of "virtual" representation, preferring direct representation, by which they meant that the British parliament should be composed of members of each of the geographical areas in which the British subjects lived. The Government, however, accepted the notion that Parliament conducted business for the entire empire. This difference of opinion is what raised the matter of taxation without representation, as well as that of the consent of the governed, both of which notions go back to Magna Charta.

The Old Patriotism was a patriotism of resistance to authority exercised extra-constitutionally. That's an important point: the Founders didn't have a problem with authority per se, but with authority exercised extra-constitutionally, especially when it came to taxes. This is the import of the clause in the Declaration that King George III had "combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation." In referring to our constitution they were not speaking of the Constitution of the United States (it didn't exist); they were speaking of the British constitution, even referring to "our British brethren." The Old Patriotism didn't die right away after the Revolution. Thomas Jefferson actually received death threats -- in writing -- while in office. One anonymous writer wrote: "Thomas Jefferson. You are the damdest fool that God put life into. God **** you." (Try that today!) I don't think President Jefferson sent anyone after these people. Death threats and cursing with eternal damnation -- try that today. Heck, let a man exercise his constitutional right to bear arms, even at a venue attended by the President and the pusillanimous patriots on the left will be all up in arms over it, so to speak. (My own dear mother fears for me referring to President Obama as "His Beatitude" or "His Humptiness", wondering how long I'll get away with it. Get away with it -- my how times have changed. At least I haven't called him the "damdest fool that God put life into" -- not that I would.)

The New Patriotism

By contrast, we should say that the New Patriotism (a patriotism which comes in Left and Right varieties) is a patriotism of acquiescence, even in the face of "a long train of [extra-constitutional] abuses" beginning, arguably, with the causes of the War for Southern Independence. (Some would have it that alone demonstrates a lack of patriotism on my part.) King George III should have been so lucky as to rule over a people as acquiescent as we have become. Let some officeholder engage in an extra-constitutional act (wage and price freezes, gold seizures, discarding of states' rights, telling us which light bulbs we may install in our own homes, which cars we may buy, how fuel-efficient they must be, whether property-owners may decide whether to permit smoking on their property, etc) and we'll whine, moan, groan, gripe and complain. But, in the end, while it does not go on unnoticed, it does go on unchallenged. The Old Patriotism meant loving your country and your countrymen enough to hold rulers accountable to the laws. A ruler who would not himself obey the laws was the very definition of a tyrant, regardless the level of his benevolence. The New Patriotism (should we call it "Yankee Patriotism"?) means loving your country so much as to accept any number of violations of the law of the land, rather than invoke "consent of the governed" and dissolve the political bands which would bind people to such government. And that (i.e., this "new" patriotism) put an end to any effective challenge to law-breaking officeholders.

For the left, the new patriotism means subordinating oneself to the state when the state is pursuing leftist goals. So, if this be the case then true patriotism is to pay one's taxes. To be a tax resistor, like, say, one of the founders, is to be unpatriotic. Paying ones taxes, even to a government which acts as extra-constitutionally as good old King George, is a most holy, patriotic service. To criticize a President for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize amounts to siding with the nation's enemies. For the left, despite their "Founders" talk, the Founders were actually as nutty as those anti-government American Patriot Movement types. For the left, who secretly love strong arm leadership tactics (except when it serves what they mistakenly call free market capitalism, but is really state capitalism, or Crony Capitalism), King George must really be a secret hero of theirs. Sort of the antithesis of the homophobe who is really a latent homosexual, the left, for all their talk of loving liberty, really love tyranny. And patriotism is service to their tyrannical (but benevolent) aspirations.

For the right, the new patriotism means subordinating oneself to the state when the state is pursuing rightist goals, what they (also mistakenly) call free market capitalism. So if the state declares war, and cannot fill the ranks of the military with volunteers (unpatriotic bastards!) and there is a draft, patriotism means submitting to this forced labor arrangement, doing your patriotic duty. Accept the fact that your country has eminent domain over your very body, as well as your land.

The New Patriotism is Statism. How else to explain the fondness for Abraham Lincoln one finds among both Rightists and Leftists. One can find the likes of Christopher Hitchens to defend Lincoln's extra-constitutional abuses on the grounds that the Constitution was for the Union, and during the Civil War there was no Union. (You see, the states which did not secede counted for nothing, except during presidential elections, and for tax purposes, but not for civil rights. Sorry.) Even the freedom loving Rush Limbaugh can be counted on, virtually every Presidents Day, to sing Lincoln's praises: "Golly gee, folks, he saved the Union. If it weren't for Abraham Lincoln, the United States would be two separate countries." It is almost as if the life of anyone in any of those states remaining in the Union could possibly have been adversely affected by those states which departed the union. Somehow or another, each of us has some sort of property stake in each of the states and we're being robbed, or worse, if a state, or twenty, leaves the union. A union one can never leave isn't a union: it's a collective, you know, like the former Union of Soviet Swallowed Republics. Of course, Limbaugh, along with Whigs such as Lincoln, is enamored of our super-power status. I guess that's his real problem: two "American" countries means no super-power status for one "American" country. (I know: my lack of patriotism is showing. But I prefer freedom to super-power status.) Can you imagine if the American Revolution had failed? Brits the world over would be saying of King George III things like, "By Jove, if not for that eminent and blessed monarch -- a statesman and a scholar if ever there was one -- the British Empire would be fifty or more separate countries scattered hicklty picklty about the globe like toys in a nursery! In short, we'd have a ghastly mess!"

Implications of The New Patriotism

The New Patriotism, requiring a certain subordination of oneself to the interests of one's country ("Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.") presents a problem. It also hints at a solution to the problem. In a sense, if one's country is something more significant than the geographical location in which one resides, however it may be governed, then one's country is an abstraction. It is difficult to serve or revere an abstraction. An abstraction really cannot command loyalty very well. But persons can do. This is why it never fails that the notion of subordination to the state leads to acceptance of a single person as autocratic dictator, that one who, somehow, is the very embodiment of the nation ("Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler").

It's easy if the leader has acquired a claim on that loyalty. We have to a certain extent come to that state of affairs. As Anne Davies recently expressed it, "Most Americans revere the presidency even if they take issue with the office holder." It's debatable when this began, maybe with Lincoln, maybe before. I don't know; and I don't really care. Certainly, FDR achieved some personal reverence, what with people having little icon corners in their homes devoted to him, or to his memory. As far as my grandmother was concerned FDR had personally saved my great-grandfather's life. (And this was odd because that man is one of those who tried, ultimately successfully, to teach me to distrust government and its motives. I always got the idea that (1) he denied the idea that FDR saved his life and (2) even if FDR had saved his life the price was too high. He always told me to get all the education and training I could because those are the only things "they" can't take from you. He never said so, but I always had the impression that "they" meant "the government".) We have seen some of this on the part of both Right and Left in this country. On the Right there was the notion that opposition to President Bush (especially as regards the war in Iraq) evinced a certain lack of patriotism. Recently the Left have equated Rush Limbaugh's desire that His Beatitude fail with a desire that the country itself fail. In both cases the President is treated as a sort of elected Fisher King, opposition to him is opposition to the country itself. To wish ill upon him is to wish ill upon the country.

It is this sort of reverence for either one's country (as an abstraction), or for the head of the government (or of the state) that makes the state servile. Servility requires reverence: there is no servility without reverence; and if there is no reverence, servility is impossible. Hence, the paradox of life in the land of the free: our obedience to an ever-increasingly extra-constitutional, authoritarian state is -- ready yourself for it -- entirely voluntary. Our political ancestors tarred and feathered that law-breaking King George's bureaucrats, and we mouth off about respecting the office if not the man. We are, now, law abiding people, even if our leaders aren't. Extra-constitutional acts still bother us, but not as much as it bothered our ancestors. Barbarians -- the sort of people who today would probably tar and feather anyone attempting to enforce anti-smoking regulations in private establishments. This is the result of a slow-growing habit, a habit of deference and reverence -- if not for the office-holder then for the office. The servile state relies upon this for much of its power; it relies upon public opinion, specifically, among other things, that the reverence and deference -- the respect -- accorded these individuals is a necessity. But is it? If we started talking to, and about, these people as if they really were servants, as if they really did work for us, and not the other way around, what would happen? It would be a form of tyrannicide. Razing the servile state doesn't require any bloodshed, certainly no assassinations (those are usually counter-productive in the extreme). Razing the servile state requires a shift in opinion of what constitutes patriotism. If one want's to sing of one's country as the land of the free and the home of the brave, then one should act like he loves liberty, for himself and his countrymen. Rather, we are told, that love of country is best expressed by paying ever-higher taxes to provide for the needs of one's countrymen: housing, education, healthcare, whatever they need. The Old Patriotism is the patriotism of the Founders, lovers of both the First and the Second Amendment. It was the Old Patriotism that threw off the chains of that law-breaking monarch. The New Patriotism is a patriotism fit for serfs, a patriotism that works only for the ruling class, whether they are the Crony-Capitalists of the Right or the Crypto-Socialists of the Left. They need your (new) patriotism; they need your love and your obedience. But they'll settle for your obedience.

Oh, question and challenge as much as you want, so long as you obey. That's the New Patriotism. And the alternative, they say, is anarchy and chaos. Oh, the phantom menace of it all!

Part V

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About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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