Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

There is a lot of talk about Patriotism these days.  The New Right has proliferated the internet with their “Patriotic” terminology.  There is this trend towards Revolutionary Era nostalgia mixed with patriotic terminology that seems to obscure any true meaning.

Sarah Palin stepped on the scene and decided to resign as Governor and proceed with her speaking engagements and book writings.  Many people cannot figure out why Palin has become such a national figure.  She is quite symbolic.  Sarah Palin puts a lot of words together and actually says very little.  Sarah Palin said, “Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reason, and not just to mingle with the right people.“*  What does that mean?  It can really mean whatever you want it to mean.  Everyone can attribute whatever preconceived notion that have to it.

The New Right is full of these comments, insinuations and rhetorical devices.  I went to “Norcal Freedom Fighters.”  In the “About Us” page, it states the following:

Core Values

  • Dedicated to defending the principles of our Nation, as established by our forefathers for the advancement of the people of these United States of America, under God
  • Ensure that the principles of the Constitution are preserved, communicated, understood and used as the basic premise for all Government in these United States of America (Local, State and Federal); creating an environment for fiduciary responsibility, the motivation of opportunities, individual choice, self-determination and generosity
  • Support for political candidates that supports conservative ideals

Strategies

  • Provide Constitutional education to empower and advance opportunities for all citizens
  • Promote the greatness of this Country and not apologize for being the envy of the World
  • Promote our principles and respecting others, not apologize or be subjugated to other doctrines of the world

If you “[p]rovide Constitutional education to empower and advance opportunities for all citizens,” does that include non-Christian citizens?  What about the education that contradicts that the “principles of our Nation, as established by our forefathers” were not based on a Nation “under God“?

I could really spend the entire time dissection just this six point page.  “Promote the greatness of this Country and not apologize for being the envy of the World.”  Envy of the world?  That is a lot like that attitude that some women have where they truly think people dislike them simply because they are beautiful regardless of their behavior (or breath).  At the very least, this is such a subjective statement, one can’t help by wonder exactly what it is supposed to mean to the general public.  How Palin-esque.

I’m going to do something I have been doing too much lately and draw a direct quote from Wikipedia.  My apologies in advance.  I just want to make sure we are using the same terms.  Far too many people throw around words with reckless abandon and then want to debate the semantics of it.

“In Marxist  terminology, reactionary is a pejorative  adjective denoting people whose ideas might appear to be pro-working class, but, in essence, contain elements of feudalism, capitalism, nationalism, fascism  or other socio-political characteristics of the ruling class.  Reactionary also denotes supporters of authoritarian, anti-communist and fascist régimes such as Vichy France,…”

These groups that refer to themselves as “Patriotic” are, in reality, reactionary.  They claim to be for the working class.  Like on the NorCal Freedom Fighters page, they say “empower and advance opportunities for all citizens.”  Whether they like it or not?  Opportunities for all citizens?  Really?  Or is this about preserving the status quo?

I constantly harp on this point, but I think it cannot be understated.  Professor G. William Domhoff, Sociology Department, University of California at Santa Cruz states very clearly in “Who Rules America

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%.

The bottom 80% of Americans have to share 15% of the wealth. So, preserving this status benefits whom?  Let’s think about the New Right’s political platforms (because there is not one central place to get this information).  They want “Limited Government” or “smaller Government,” claiming the United States Government has grown “too large” and is encroaching on the “Freedoms” of Americans.  They want “tax reform” – usually in a Flat Tax or Fair Tax.  They want less regulation on the Market, claiming that Federal intervention on the economic system will inhibit economic growth and something about how they hate Socialism.  They want a repeal to any form of Universal Health Care.  Many want the United States to be officially a Christian nation.  (And there’s usually some tripe about “immigration” that is really about treating Chicanos as less than equals and I don’t feel like even getting into that.)

Well… Let’s look at how responsible corporations have been with the “expanded government” we have today.  The housing/real estate bubble burst, the Auto industry failed, the financial institutions bet against their own clients and benefited as the American economy collapsed, police and teachers are being laid off, the cost of “higher education” has increased… and on top of all of this, the Gulf of Mexico is now filled with crude oil – the worst environmental disaster in American history – ever.

We are supposed to think that easing up restrictions for these corporate entities is going to help the majority of Americans?  That is Patriotic?  To let corporations pillage the people? A smaller government will do what to curtail these issues?  Lack of regulation will do what to stop profiteers from manipulating the markets for personal gain?  Less regulations will make oil drilling safer?  This is absurd. Limited government serves only to lift restrictions on the accumulation of wealth for the top 1% of the United States.  How patriotic.

I already went into some facts about Flat Taxes.  If you want to know more, you can check out Laurence M. Vance‘s article “The Flat Tax Is Not Flat and the FairTax Is Not Fair” from the Ludwig von Mises Institute (a Libertarian think tank.)  It stands that this type of tax reform serves to benefit the top 1% of the United States.

On the topic of health care, the Commonwealth Fund just released a study that repeats what every other study conducted already concluded:

Despite having the most expensive health care system, the U.S. ranks last overall compared to six other countries on measures of health system performance.

So, the wealthy have great health care in the United States.  Unfortunately the poor do not have access to it. Well, considering that 80% of the country has to split 15% of the wealth, who has access to the “excellent health care“?  (Here’s a hint: it is not the majority.)  Why do we oppose Universal Health Care?  How Patriotic to deny superior health care to a majority of Americans because “they can’t afford it.”

The New Right is Reactionary. Completely and totally. They use “patriotism” as a guise, when the real agenda is to keep things the way they are, and make the wealthy even more wealthy.  Who really supports a Plutocracy?  The people who want to give everyone health care or those that want excellent health care for the wealthy?  Or those who would let corporations have less restrictions or those who want to hold these corporations accountable?  Who is more patriotic to the “forefathers“?  How does this “empower and advance opportunities for all citizens“?

Reactionary feelings were often coupled with a hostility to modern, industrial means of production and a nostalgia for a more rural society.”  I find this also is highly applicable to the Tea Party Movement, and the New Right in general.  They reminisce about a bygone era and long to bring it back… regardless of how plausible that would be. (Much like the part of the Dynastic Cycle in China, where the people would reminisce about the glorious days of the last Dynasty, and ignore all the problems that were incurred.)

So now we have this culture war, with the Patriots calling those that would move forward names such as “Communist” and “Socialist” and then calling them “Nazi” and even making up oxymorons such as “Liberal Fascist.”

“The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might, and the Republic is in danger. Yes – danger from within and without. We need law and order! Without it our nation cannot survive.”

~ Adolph Hitler

The Nazi party sought to destroy Communism in any form.  Hitler used his Sturmabteilung (Brown Shirts) to stand against the Communists and Socialists.  Those with seemingly limited understand of the situation, or purposefully manipulating language point to the Nazi party having the word “Socialist” in it.  This is only a half-truth. They were “National Socialists” which was NOT socialism.  National Socialism IS fascism . . .  it was their “third way economics.”

The dialect of the NorCal Freedom Fighters and majority of the Tea Party Patriots is tiring.  Do they really represent the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, and the homeless? Does all of this Patriotic rhetoric really mean they value freedom and equality?  Or is it a reactionary position to defend the aristocracy and the owners of capital? Why such outrage at the possibility that the bottom 80% might deserve more than 15% of the nation’s wealth?  They will say that the reason they oppose this is “because people should have to work for what they receive.”  So, are they saying that 80% of this country doesn’t work?  That the CEOs at Goldman-Sachs work harder than a steel mill worker? Or that the ENRON CEO was a harder worker than a single mother with 3 jobs in retail?

I’m not being sarcastic when I say that it is arrogant and elitist to believe that 80% of the United States are lazy and undeserving.  That is what this “patriotic rhetoric” is really saying when they oppose increasing opportunity and providing basic social services. I understand that this is a valid view.  So is fascism and so is support of a monarchy or a dictatorship.  I dislike all of those options.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

~ Inscription on Statue of Liberty

McCarthyism technically ended.  The Red Scare and the Cold War are over.  The Soviet Union is gone.  Stalinist/Maoist Communism is almost gone.  North Korea and Cuba are the last bastions of this style of governance.  Now we have to deal with this reactionary “Patriotism” that is really an attempt to revive a dying system of Plutocracy.

I do not believe oil spills, unemployment and corporate profits over people are very patriotic.

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  ~ Samuel Johnson

Indeed.

*I could not find a reliable source for this quote.  It is meant to be exemplary, anyway.

Comments

  1. avatar Gets rich betting with leftists says:

    Hyena,

    Do you hold patriotism in high esteem? In order to do that you would have to appreciate the separation of peoples into nations. In nothing that you have written have you venerated patriotism or nationalism. In fact, so much of what you express is contrary to those concepts; and your support for Marxism, in itself is highly contrary to patriotism and nationalism. Howard Zinn, a man who says so much of what you say, in an unguarded moment, admitted that net overall, it would be better if the United States never came into existence – hardly a patriot. It is rather obvious from all you’ve advocated that the two of you are cut from a similar cloth – the one that is not proud to consider hisself to be a patriot.

    So now on to your site’s new quoting of Samuel Johnson’s little ditty. Like every good student, educated by the ignorant leftism of the sixties, you have been led to believe that the quote places patriotism in disrepute. The truth is the exact opposite. As Boswell, Johnson’s biographer, explains, Johnson venerated patriotism and was entirely misunderstood. The quote was to point out the behavior of scoundrels.

    Will you now resort to charging that you are the real lover of patriotism and that Palin and Beck are scoundrels and that their patriotism is their last refuge? I should hope not; such duplicity would be too transparent. That is because, with your continual anti-patriotic spewings, you express contempt for something that Palin and Beck share with Johnson – a great love of patriotism.

    But plese don’t let any of this affect you. I rather enjoy it when leftist ideologues quote and put on a pedestal traditionalists, entirely missing their point – like when they say that the founders were attracted to democracy or pure egalitarianism.

  2. avatar Hyena says:

    I don’t recall mentioning Samuel Johnson in this entry, other than the quote of a phrase he made popular.

    “you have been led to believe that the quote places patriotism in disrepute.”

    I never made that claim. What I claimed is that many people falsely label their agenda as “Patriotic” when nothing could be farther from the truth. They are not interested in the benefit of the country as a whole, only in their own personal benefit. Like Glenn Beck who generates $32 million in a year talking about “Progressive Conspiracies” of liberals to control and steal from the working class. Or Sarah Palin who charges up to $100,000 a speech to deliver a message of sound bytes and little substance, and really delivers blind nationalism, which Samuel Johnson was actually against.

    In regard to Samuel Johnson:
    Although I do share his views on slavery. (I find it especially interesting that he actually hoped for a slave rebellion in the “West Indies” and felt the mistreatment of “the Negro” was appalling.) I also share his views on sympathy and compassion for the poor, against aggressive penal codes and against warfare. But I am not a Tory, nor would I ever be one. It is also interesting that he felt the United States rebellion was a usurpation of the British government. Maybe that is why he felt it important to have a structured class-based society and was highly supportive of Anglican law. But, I do also share his views against blind-Nationalism.
    In a nutshell, it really is not possible to state that Samuel Johnson was a “Conservative” or a “Liberal.” He did not make his decisions along party lines. In regard to French and British treatment of the Native Americans, this was the man that stated: “No people can be great who have ceased to be virtuous.”

    “entirely missing their point”
    I think you entirely missed my point. I never held that I hold Patriotism in high regard, or disregard. I have made no claims about Patriotism at all. What I do find contemptuous is the constant perpetuation of agendas that make the wealthy much more wealthy and the poor much more poor, and then dressing it up as “Patriotism” in a nation that is “For the people.”

    Proposing flat taxes and less government regulation serves who? The people or the wealthy and corporations? How does this benefit the nation? How is this love of the nation? Especially the nation of the United States. This is not a nation of Monarchs and Aristocracy (on paper). This is a nation that was founded as a democratic Republic with a sense of egalitarianism. And social memes change, I find it amusing when proponents of a traditionalist reading of the Constitution want to apply current standards to 18th century ideology… does this mean to bring back agricultural production and the institution of slave labor, as well as making women property?

    As far as my feelings on patriotism:
    Well, I consider myself to be more like Christ than most Christians. That does not make me a Christian.

    .

    and today’s classical logical fallacy:
    “Like every good student, educated by the ignorant leftism of the sixties, ”

    This ad hominem tactic is really stale. I’ve already refuted it and it does not seem to matter. But I’ll play just a little:
    One of my Professors was born in 1931. He graduated Magna cum Laude from Yale in 1954.

    In 1966 he was a consultant for Ronald Reagan for Governor campaign.
    From 1968 to 1972 he was a consultant for Oakland Police Department and Civil Service Commission.
    In 1983 to 1985 he was a speechwriter for Vice President George Bush.
    In 1994 he was a campaign Writer for Governor Pete Wilson.

    Such a 60’s “bleeding heart liberal” if ever there was one!
    Keep going on just adding random tidbits of fallacious information, it is really quite amusing.

  3. avatar Ibn Aswad says:

    Don’t know which i enjoyed more, the original article or the blazing rejoinder to the first comment. The patently false premise around Samuel Johnson quote is actually fairly ubiquitous coming from right-wing apologist. They conveniently miss that the subject of the quote is “scoundrels” not “patriotism”. As in after “scoundrels” have been completely discredited their only refuge is to claim their villainy is actually in the service of patriotism. I glad I stumbled on your website.

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