Patriotism when you don’t love your country


As I do every year, I went with my family to our town’s Fourth of July Parade. It’s a great parade, with all sorts of community groups participating, including the various chambers of commerce; Little League baseball teams; bagpipers (Marin is home to a thriving bagpipe community); an impressive selection of WWII vehicles from from the Garbarino Military Vehicle Museum, a private collection of lovingly restored military vehicles; marching bands; and the usual flotsam and jetsam of community organizations in a small town.

Thousands of people turn out to line the parade route. Flags are everywhere: they festoon the trucks and cars and children wave them wildly. It’s like the colorized version of a 1940s movie. Attending is a delightful experience.

But there’s something funny going on here. In 2008, Barack Obama got 78% of the Marin County vote. This was not an accident. Despite being the beneficiaries of the best America has to offer in terms of wealth and natural beauty, Marin’s residents are die-hard Democrats.

To the extent they veer away from soccer and carpools, and into politics, the Facebook posts I see demonstrate that, at least in significant numbers, these investment bankers, lawyers, doctors, architects, educators, accountants, etc., worship at the shrine of socialized medicine, government price controls, and higher taxes. They are fervently anti-War, despite their cheers for the WWII vehicles and the sprinkling of WWII vets who sat in those vehicles. They embrace multiculturalism with a passion, think Israel is unfair to the beleaguered Palestinians whose land they stole, and are dismayed by America’s long history of slavery, imperialism, sexism and racism, not to mention the grossly unequal way America treats its own poor. They voted for Barack Obama because they agree with him that America needs to be fundamentally changed in order to be worthy: she needs to be turned into a pacifist, socialist, small county.

This is America, and Marinites are entitled to head to the polls, determined to obtain transformation. Whether they’ll like it if they get it is another question, of course.

But what I really wondered today is what all the flag waving was about. A vast number of the attendees and participants disrespect our country’s history, dislike her institutions, and want to remake her into something entirely different from what she is today. They don’t want to improve her, they want to transform her. If patriotism is the “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country,” what does one call enthusiasm for the symbols of a country, without any attendant support for the country itself? Perhaps a better term than patriotism would be “theater of the absurd.”

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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