Nationalism & “loving America”

I’ve never known quite what it means to love one’s country. A moral failing apparently. The land? The individuals who live there? The history? The government?

I really, really love the land in North America — the contours, the mountains, the trees. Agricultural products native to the americas include bell peppers, corn, chocolate, potatoes (or is it potatos) to name just a few.

I’m pretty sure that I don’t like or dislike people based on the national citizenship. I go through phases of liking & disliking people, generally. Recently i was out on the Albany bulb, a peninsula jutting into the SF Bay. It served as a construction debris dumping ground for many, many years, so when you walk around on it, you can see all manner of stuff — concrete, steel, something with a steering wheel. But all this stuff is grown over with trees, and lots of blackberry bushes. (Probably not a good idea to eat the blackberries.) What’s amazing about this space is how a lot of locals have done all kinds of art out there, molding the wire into sculptures, painting on the concrete, making crazy sculptures out of big ol’ slabs of foam. When I see that, I really, really love the funny spark of humanity in people that creates art and beauty out of a dump.

As for the government, what is there to love in a government? The members of the government? The actions it takes? I think the Declaration of Independence is often inspirational in tone. I agree with courts’ interpretations of the Constitution sometimes, and disagree other times. I’m rather partial to the First Amendment & its place in American jurisprudence. Governance is generally uncomfortable, but I’ll grant that government can be a useful tool. Given that power today is accumulated and used by various entities and individuals, government is one of the accumulating entities that is somewhat more susceptible of control by and for the people. Like all tools government is easily snagged and used in harmful ways. The US government in theory is more responsive, at least in potentiality, than some governments are and certainly less than others. In actuality, all levels of government in the US — federal, state, local — are labyrinthine, opaque, oblique, highly political, and not easily wrested from the hands of the powerful.

Take for example the Bush Administration. (Please.) I really, really don’t like the Bush Administration — I don’t like its habit of removing scientific information it disagrees with from reports and public information; I don’t like the uses it has made of our military; I don’t like the decisions that it has made with respect to individual civil liberties, privacy, the rights of detained US citizens and non-citizens; I don’t like the decisions it has made with respect to separation of church and state or the ways that Bush, himself, the person has invoked his personal deity and religious ties in political life. I don’t like the tenor of this administration’s international relations, pretty much uniformly. I really think John Ashcroft displays very little respect for the constitutional rights of, well, anybody. I don’t like that the Bush Administration has chosen to support a so-called marriage amendment.

… So when people say they love or hate america, or somebody else loves or hates america, I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Mostly, I think, people are just kinda sloppy with their language about “love” and “hate”, and “america”. I take such statements to mean, “I dis/agree with the values evoked by a particular representation of america.” Right? Because it’s just silly to say that “I love america” or “I hate america.” And if it’s silly to say that “I love america” or “Michael Moore hates america” then it is also just as silly to argue about whether that’s true or not. (No, Michael Moore loves america — he’s a true patriot. No, Michael Moore hates america.”) The words are meaningless and consequently their truth or falsity equally meaningless.