Friday, June 29, 2012

Patriotism in an era of repression

When I think, as I often do, about what distinguishes modern Americans from those who were willing to take up arms in defense of their personal and political liberties all those generations ago, I don't see many parallels remaining.

Two major distinctions exist in my mind.

First, it's not an us-them sort of thing. I realize that many colonists saw themselves as English subjects, but it's obvious that the British parliament's and King's unfeeling arrogance alienated enough thinking people to spark a nascent nation (no pleonasm intended here, but...). And, you had to be a thinking, indeed radical person for the most part even to find yourself in colonial America in the first place.

It's hard to raise up opposition against tyranny when the tyrants are you.

Second, today so many just aren't citizens anymore.

I think a couple of hundred years of assumptions largely fulfilled along with a Zeitgeist of democracy people have bought into whereby nations are becoming increasingly democratic (not sure this is even really, deeply true, but it's a different debate) have put Americans to sleep about what it means to be a citizen and the real threat that any government at all poses to liberty. In short, people assume that governments are legitimate to the point that individual freedoms are purely secondary considerations. Worse still, Americans now believe as long have their French counterparts, that it's government and not Nature or God that grants rights and liberty.

Immigrating peoples, especially Hispanics, come from a backdrop of appalling political servitude and a Crô Magnon-era understanding of themselves in the face of government, and do not expect liberty in the way our Founding Fathers thought both natural and crucial. I mean no slight: many immigrants come here for economic prosperity and personal safety for their families. I'm down with that as a totally honorable reason to come. Our distant ancestors, however, came because to stay home would have meant death or at least sore persecution for their religious beliefs. Those are reasons for creating an America of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In summary, I don't see America irrigating the roots of the tree of Liberty with its citizens' blood ever again. Instead, what I see coming is strife and bloodshed unassociated with the lofty goal of "putting things aright" in a proper revolution.