Jonah Goldberg: Progressives’ Peculiar Sense of Patriotism

Sheer naked panic, from which there may be no return

The best thing Obama can seem to say about the country is that it elected him into office

Jonah Goldberg writes:

…Patriotism for progressives has always been deeply bound up in the role of government and the cause of reform. That’s fine, to a certain extent. But underlying it is the assumption that America as it exists is a problem that needs to be fixed, if not “fundamentally transformed.” And, let’s be honest about it, there were times when progressives had the better part of the argument.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s newsletter here, at National Review Online]

But, culturally and psychologically, what endures is the pious progressive conviction that the government is better than the people it serves, at least when the right people are running it — and that the job of progressives is to bring the bitter clingers up to the government’s ideals, as best they can. The Left and the cultural elite of a hundred years ago were fairly honest about this point of view. From The Tyranny of Clichés:

The Nation ran a whole series of articles under the heading “In These United States” purporting to reveal that Manhattan was an island of sophistication in a vast wasteland of American tyranny-of-clichesbackwardness.

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

This was the era when it became an article of faith that the artist must hate the society in which he lives, that he must be “a public enemy” in the words of H. L. Mencken, and that the “vox populi is, to him, the bray of an ass.” The writers for the Nation ridiculed what is today called “fly-over country”—which back then was really “train-through country” or perhaps “cruise around country”—with relentless condescension. Chronicling his impressions of Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis lamented that the “Scandinavians Americanize only too quickly!” Perhaps not surprisingly, the South was an object of particular scorn. One writer believed that Mississippi could only be saved by an invasion of civilizing, cultured, missionaries from the North. Another scratched his head to ask what, if anything, Alabama had ever contributed to humanity . . .

All in all, the cultural elite of the 1920s had firmly convinced itself that they were, in Christopher Lasch’s words, “a civilized minority in a nation of Babbitts, Rotarians, and rednecks.”Revolt-Masss

This theme, by the way, is the thesis of Fred Siegel’s Revolt Against the Masses.

[Check out Fred Siegel’s book “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class at Amazon]

The attitude has evolved since then. Today’s progressives aren’t adherents to the Social Gospel for the most part, and they certainly aren’t eugenicists — but they’re also a lot less honest than their predecessors. Occasionally, someone will let it slip that they don’t believe in, say, the “private ownership of children” or will claim that the only reason liberal politicians don’t do better is because the voters are racists and sexists. Sometimes, they feel free to barf up their condescending bigotry for the South and paint it on the wall. Even the president of the United States has hinted that he favors increased immigration for its deleterious effects on his political opponents. And, once in a blue moon, you get the Democratic Senate majority leader explaining how displeasing he finds the musk of the little people. But for the most part, liberals have to lie about how much they believe they’re better than the country they serve.

[Read the full text of Jonah Goldberg‘s newsletter here, at National Review Online]

colbert-fingers

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO, GOT TO DO, WITH IT?

Simply put, there’s a tension between the desire to change something and loving something for what it is. As I’ve said many times, if you desire something solely for your ability to have your way with it, that is not love; it’s lust.

And for generations, American reformers have argued that there’s nothing wrong with America that being more like Europe wouldn’t fix. Countless leading liberals hate — and I mean hate — the suggestion that America is the best country in the world. Just two weeks ago, I think, I linked to this progressive mind-porn from the opening scene of HBO’s The Newsroom. Stephen Colbert’s whole shtick for the last nine years has been to mock people who love this country too much. Indeed, for eight years under Bush we heard that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” — a profoundly stupid and self-serving bumper sticker of a notion. It’s a very strange understanding of love — and that’s all patriotism is; love of country — that its greatest expression is biting criticism, regardless of said criticism’s merit. For eight years, every calumny and slander imaginable was hurled at Bush and the United States, and whenever anyone pushed back on it, we were told that it was patriotic. We just love our country! Dissent is the highest form of patriotism!

NONE DARE CALL IT ISLAMIC

I know everyone — including me — is a little exhausted with the whole debate over whether to talk about Islam or not. In my column today, I argue that there’s actually an upside to Obama’s ridiculous obsession:

And that brings us to the silver lining on Obama’s stubborn refusal to speak plainly about the plainly obvious. As I said at the outset, when you deny a given truth, you force people to explain why the truth is a given. Nearly everyone agrees the earth is round, but if you meet someone who says it’s flat, you’re forced to explain — with facts and logic — why it’s not flat.

Obama’s flat-eartherism on radical Islam is clearly an embarrassing failure in deterring Islamists, but it is forcing serious people to think more deeply about the challenges we face. It’s not the debate Obama wants, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

But I want to add a quick point or two….(read more)

National Review Online


One Comment on “Jonah Goldberg: Progressives’ Peculiar Sense of Patriotism”

  1. […] The Butcher The best thing Obama can seem to say about the country is that it elected him into office Jonah […]


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