Monday, September 14, 2009

The Myth of Conservative Patriotism.

In 1949 Truman's Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal committed suicide after a long struggle with depression. It didn't take long for the McCarthy-ites and Birchers to invent the story that Forrestal must not have taken his own life but rather was driven to his death by "secret Communists" in Truman's administration which must certainly exist since Truman opposed McCarthy's loyalty oaths. How could there be any other explanation?

Sounds depressingly familiar doesn't it?

I think that what often seems just plain crazy is actually a reflexive response among conservatives. An angry response to a country they claim to love but which in reality they are frequently deeply frustrated by and almost always unable to embrace fully. Conservatives love their country, their country, which is the country that looks, sounds, worships, celebrates, and votes like they do. EXACTLY like they do. America is a free country they say but in reality they mean we're free to choose as they choose and think as they think. Any deviation is subversion and not an exercise in freedom.

And once circumstances begin to suggest to conservatives that they might not be the representatives our national culture they turn viciously and viscerally on the people and institutions that exist precisely because of our unique set of freedoms. They turn on any representation of an America that isn't in hegemonic lock step with their dogmas and despise the people and institutions that actually manifest the freedoms they claim to love so dearly , and despise isn't an overstatement.

Because of their fundamentalist religious roots conservatives cannot abide multiple possibilities or plural notions of common goods. To suggest that there may be other perfectly legitimate world views or alternatives is not a point of consideration for conservatives but rather a repudiation, an affront, a slap in the face. They hear, "here is another option" as "YOU'RE WRONG" and they always will because their politics are an expression of how they experience the world.

Conservatives fear the future and over value the present which makes it tough on them because America is the epicenter of the future. The American Idea is one that says the risks of a better future are more than worth the price of an imperfect present and that's a national bet conservatives will not take. The devil they know is always better than the possible good they don't know.

Every time, every single time America has sought to expand the promise of our values to more and more of our citizens conservatives have resisted. Its who they are. From Forrestal to Vince Foster. McCarthy to Palin and Alan Keyes. From the birthers and "You Lie!", none of this should come as a surprise. We've seen it over and over again and will many many more times Im afraid.


  1. My dad, former Republican and now independent (he pissed off a lot of golf buddies when he switched teams and voted for Obama...) says that in the end, progress wins. He gave me the example of the suffragettes in 1880. It would be forty frustrating years before they got the vote and 130 before a woman would run a bonafide campaign for the presidency, but hey... eventually. Cold comfort, but it's something.

  2. Excellent... post? It seems more like an essay. A very good, well thought out essay. An answer to the stupidity and fear and hatred of many vocal conservative people nowadays.

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts. You have expressed how I feel.