Saturday, February 21, 2015

America - Love It or Feel Complicated about It

If you were to ask me whether or not I love my country, I would have to say no.

But wait - rest assured that I am not a communist, nor have I decided to slip away to sign up with ISIS. What I mean is that I don't love abstractions that I can't physically embrace.

I grew up in a large family (six children) in which togetherness was a constant theme. And I loved all of the members of that family: grandparents, parents, and siblings. I still do love them all, as well as those who have been added to our expanding clan over the decades. But do I love my "family?" I don't think so. My family is an idea or an ideal, not a living, breathing, huggable being.

Same goes for America. Not huggable.

I am a patriot. However, I recognize that patriotism is largely a type of delusional self-regard, a point well expressed by George Bernard Shaw when he said "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it."

Yes, patriotism is a kind of egotism blown up to global proportions. So be it. But aren't we all egotists - those of us who enjoy at least a modicum of psychological health? In the same way that I accede to the demands of my individual sense of my own wonderfulness, I accede to a natural admiration and appreciation for my country and the ideals it is said to represent. But as I do so, I can't help but recognize that this is all bullshit. My devotion to America is bullshit, but it's my bullshit, and I'm sticking with it.

Which brings us to Rudy Giuliani and his bullshit. His insistence that President Obama does not love his country is, I suspect, a way to put Obama on the spot. Obama is a very smart guy and, though he is obviously a dedicated patriot, he may, like me, not feel entirely natural and comfortable talking about love in relation to the complex, ethically uneven, interlocking network of institutions and narratives that is America. If he were to talk honestly about his sentiments, he might well be forced into the kind of analytic discussion that I have indulged in here. And this would be politically disastrous for him. Was Giuliani trying to damage Obama by forcing him either to speak in a stilted and unnatural manner by clumsily declaring his love for America, or to avoid the topic and raise suspicions about his patriotism?

And now Giuliani, while sticking to his charge that Obama doesn't love his country, claims that he, Giuliani, certainly does not question Obama's patriotism.

The real issue here is not Obama's patriotism, which no sane person could possibly question, but Giuliani's slick double talk. That guy is clever in a very creepy way. Imagine - he was once the front runner in the GOP presidential field. Yes, America (a country about which I feel...oh, never mind), we could have been blighted with a Giuliani presidency. A presidency so thoroughly shot through with underhanded thuggishness that this experience, I believe, would have reminded us all, more than anything, of a return of the spirit of Nixon.