Are You A Patriot?

I put this in Wrath, instead of dizzy, not because of where it begins, but because of where it may go.

“Are you a patriot?” This was the question put to one of my classmates, and he physically moved backward like he was faced with a loaded weapon. This was in a history class with a cartoonishly leftist professor. He had a very confrontational style; it was one where he expected, almost begged, students to push back. I liked it, because it was contrary to the “bully-indoctrinator” narrative of leftist professors often peddled by the neocons. He would challenge you on your ideas, and expected to be challenged on his. He wanted his students to be articulate, and his style to was pull your thoughts out of you. But it meant that every question was adversarial, and so I saw very conservative students hesitate to answer what would have been a simple question, or even something they would profess openly to the professor after class, but who didn’t know if they could defend it.

All in all it was a crazy class, but I learned a lot about narrative in history, and how we support historical narratives. But I put this question out to the rest of you (irrespective of your nationality):

Are you a patriot? Why?

I find myself willing to answer this question with a firm and resolute yes, despite my strong dislike for the nation-state construct. It has nothing to do with believing in the promise of America, or the basic purity of its constitution. I’m not a fan of the popular American patriotic style: Stars and stripes forever, we won WWII, the Soviets couldn’t beat us, etc. Instead, it’s more about how I am product of American culture by accident of birth. I’m also the product of the statist paradigm in which I was born. The best way for me to move through the world is to integrate and engage heavily with my community to move it forward as best as I can. This is where I live, where I speak the language, and where I have the greatest stake. The promise of America becomes, in effect, the promise of all people seeking better lives. This means better, more moral, less corrupt governance, and the least disruption of that government. I find this more satisfying and logical than starting with (and never questioning) the premise, “We’re the best!” Certainly there are patriots of other countries who deal with the certitude of knowing, beyond all doubt, that there are objectively better countries. After all, what kind of patriot abandons their country when the chips are down?


Sounds like a great time. This is why I prefer more Socratic-style school environments.

Not particularly!

Because democratic nations are a contradiction in terms. In the era immediately succeeding The Enlightenment, communication was slow and diffuse enough to create the illusion that large-scale systems of political representation were a realistic notion. This was achieved by assuming that people who comprise a nation state naturally have few fundamental differences. For instance, that we are all Eurocentric Christian white male property-owners. That millions of people can and should (just happen to!) have similar goals and values. While ignoring that making this true was an act of coercion, of sublimating older forms of colonialism into generations of passive-aggressive genocide with better public relations.

The increased social unrest since the 20th century has largely been as a result of faster, decentralized, more pervasive communications. What this has done, to an extent, was disillusion many from the story that people can/do all think and want similar things. It has demonstrated the contradictions between entrenched, Eurocentric-style systems of representation - while professing a kind of multiculturalism which then must remain superficial and unrealized at a practical level. Society and government are not the “broadcast” model of top-down hierarchies, but rather, impromptu overlapping networks. So modern people basically have a choice between voluntarily subordinating themselves to large systems which they do not trust, or of breaking units of social organization into much smaller, localized forms.

My perspective is that countries are something of a dead end. They tend to be easily co-opted by entrenched powers, and are far too broad to fairly represent, with any honesty or efficacy, millions of people.


I find this an interesting notion. Mainly because I feel that technology has actually had the effect of compressing the global diversity of culture. This isn’t a new Internet-based phenomenon either. In the nineties, television killed the village storyteller stone-cold in technologically unsophisticated communities that could afford to pool together enough money for a satellite dish and a TV from Relatively Close Big City.

Surely technology actually gives finer-grained and more instantaneous distribution of resources according to priorities. What works for the NSA going in one direction can work in the other direction, to use an example of government power that used ubiquitous technology to homogenize surveillance.

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It is an excellent question, and keep in mind I am not addressing you, but a hypothetical professor.

“Are you a patriot?”

“Fuck you!”

“What do you mean?”

"I mean I am a positive part of society; I elevate friends, family, and strangers when they need it; I protect against those that wish to harm us; I believe in the ethics and morality this nation has fought for; I am part of the political process and discourse; and I don’t toe the line on every statute passed, and I work to change unjust laws and rules.

So fuck you, I’m a patriot you fucker."

Then I get kicked out of class for having a foul mouth.


That would have been intensely hypocritical of him.


To be honest I misspelled that last part. I’d be kicked out for my screed of poultry puns and my Fowl mouth.

tip your wait staff, I’ll be here all week


How unpheasant.

*Also crouches to avoid being struck by thrown objects.*


This can get into the weed fast. So I am going to be brief, not because the topic deserves brevity, but so the Big Points aren’t lost.

Do you not think the last hundred years if political and commercial consolidation speaks to people being more comfortable with centralized power than what you describe?

While you mention a nation can’t effectively represent millions of people, isn’t inclusiveness better than fragmentation and exclusiveness?


I’m a citizen, and as such I have certain rights that I must exercise to ensure that my country continues to strive toward the vision promised by the framers: that all people are equal and endowed with inherent and inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Except that the framers demonstrably didn’t believe that. At least not all of them, and certainly the framers of the United States (to which I presume you are referring) had enough diversity of opinion in terms of vision that it’s difficult to distill something that doesn’t exclude a lot of them. There is what I like to call the “mythic” vision, which you articulated, and is a fine standard, but why should we be beholden to what a bunch of dead people wanted, when they don’t suffer the consequences?

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If this is compression, then it is extremely lossy compression. Anybody can tell stories. So when people switch to televised stories, of selected appear by a minority, it is stories themselves who lose out. Television has been the least egalitarian form of communication ever. Yet, somehow, people worldwide have been tempted to give up their own personal and cultural stories for it. Under the pretense that pop culture is by and for “everybody” when it is really created and controlled by a small segment of the population. Internet culture I think is the first mass-communications technology which has allowed for practically anybody to distribute local ideas right along side those of broadcast media.

It is not only technology which facilitates surveillance, it is mostly intent. The capability has always been there. The only thing that scares entrenched powers more than people being aware of mass surveillance is the possible democratization of surveillance. The past 20 years efforts to lock down networking are very much a regressive reaction against its organizing potential and dissemination of ideas.

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Erm. Not sure what you’re trying to get at, but it does come across the bit of provocateur.

Surely the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are not letter-perfect, but that’s ok cause we can amend them. Of course a more modern document like the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights is more to the liking of my modern lexicon.

Pretty proud of my country this week, to be honest.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
–Winston Churchill

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For the most part, no. The centralized powers which already existed already have had organizational and technological advantages which allowed them to exploit the psychology of the masses. There are hardly any choices within the structures offered by these frameworks which would allow for power to be deliberately decentralized. It has occurred mostly through surprise disruptions. Most of what I hear about popular opinion suggests to me that people are not likely to trust their governments or businesses to be fair to them, or truthful generally. But they don’t trust themselves either. Many people can apparently be conditioned to be just comfortable enough to not risk doing things differently. But this tends to be a superficial sort of comfort, a complacency where the risks appear diffuse and distributed, but still very real.

No, inclusiveness and exclusiveness seem to me to be the same process seen in different ways. If people are free to organize, then they don’t need to be included by a more pervasive whole. Inclusion is also the flip side of colonialism and assimilation. But many feel pressured to settle and be recognized by those already in power rather than accept the distribution of power. This becomes troubling in a multicultural context where one risks assimilation into groups who can appear to operate upon false or outmoded models of self, society, and the world at large. Fragmentation transcends inclusion/exclusion by not presupposing either side of a totality. Not unlike how interference allows for holography, the fragment and the whole are the same.


Brutal question… Have you checked your assumptions? Obviously you hold these opinions, but do other people hold them and even given the option to accept them would they? And if they did would the end result be measurably more kind and fair than current methods?

No, inclusiveness and exclusiveness seem to me to be the same process seen in different ways.

How bout instead of inclusiveness, mutual moderate homogenization?

No, I’m a Seahawk!

Given that I’m not a citizen of the country I live in, probably not.

I’m not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, plus, last refuge of a scoundrel and all that.


My views on patriotism are heavily informed by my time in the Boy Scouts.

The scouts can be jingoistic, nationalistic, and a lot of troops even espouse religious supremacy and favoritism (You have to swear on god and shit. Doesn’t matter what god, “as long as you believe in something”. Also the Mormons have massively disproportionate influence and power in the organization). But my troop was a fairly Progressive and Liberal one in the Seattle area.

The way we were taught about patriotism is taking pride in the community you live in. Patriotism isn’t about “we’re number one”. It’s about service to those around you. Service to your country. Working within the system in order to change things for a more just, fair and equitable nation. As part of the Eagle Scout pledge I took, there’s a line that goes something like:

“I promise to uphold the rights of my fellow citizens, and the laws of my country, and to work within the Democratic system to change unjust laws.”

It’s awfully broad, and it’s written from the point of view of the mid 20th century, so political participation wasn’t broken quite as badly as it is today.

These days, I’m not sure whether I can call myself a patriot. I like the US. I don’t like a lot of things our government does in my name. And I know that I personally can’t change much.

I’d say by my own service-based and citizenship-based interpretation of what patriotism is, I think I might be able to call myself a patriot. But, of course, patriotism to me doesn’t mean loving America so much as loving my community, and recognizing my duty as a person of privilege to advocate for those whose voices are all too often ignored. To listen to what “the least of us” (for lack of a better term) have to say, and to do what I can to help make the country better. It’s my duty as a member of the community.


I don’t know if it’s brutal, but it is an obvious question. I’ll put it this way - everybody I know who has a country, has done so as a reaction to being confronted by others with this system. Not because they spontaneously decided that it would be a good idea.

Everybody has the option, but the trick is that nation states were devised as being a captive audience, so not accepting a particular citizenship carries with it a threat of implicit violence. This itself is enough to impress some as being uncivilized. Unfortunately, community and personal interactions are not the primary purpose behind nation states, but rather notions of territory, property, and exploitation. Of course, they pay lip service to more refined, humanitarian concepts, but this is not what they are based upon. Since alternatives are violently repressed, it seems to be a stacked question, institutionally speaking.

There is certainly the potential for communities to be far more kind and fair. The practical approach, I think, is to work towards a diverse ecosystem, rather than monolithic (and thus, compromised) ideals. Society is always plural.

Also, there is the inherent subjectivity that people often do not agree as to what “kind” and “fair” are, never mind being able to measure them!

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You don’t know any ex-pats? Or first generation immigrants? A lot of people chose to come to the US and make it their country because they believe the US is better in some way or another than their country of origin… They thought it was a good idea to come here.

Although the way you phrased it, I have the feeling that you meant to say that immigrants and ex-pats have a choice about whether they’re going to participate as part of the nation. Like, someone would come here not planning on using American currency, or interacting with other citizens. Essentially “remaining foreign”. But I’m probably starting to conflate national identity with culture (although I’d say in many cases they’re one and the same. Soldiers live in a culture of government design.)

A patriot is someone who feels a strong support for their country

Ahh but what is a country?

A country is a region that is identified as a distinct entity in political geography

Ahh but what is political geography?

Political geography is a specific field of study within the more general field of human geography that examines how people in specific locations around the world have organized themselves into distinctive political groups, and how they influence and interact with each other.

Ahh but what is human geography?

Human geography is the branch of the social sciences that deals with the world, its peoples, and their communities and cultures, by emphasising their relations of and across space and place.

Hmmm, all right then. I guess that when I consider the aspect of human geography I find I am a patriot from coast to coast and when I consider the political geography I find I am a patriot when it suits me and never beyond the border with England. So perhaps the tension between these two variables will illuminate my predisposition?


I am patriotic for an ideal and ideals, simply, do not exist.

But I’m still a patriot in that non-existence.


Not what I meant, but still worth considering. I meant the drive to be a part of any country, as opposed to being stateless(bagofmeatlogic). People are not born nationalists, they are claimed and then socialized by others, which impresses me as being a rather sordid affair. If you’d let your kid grow up to make up their own mind about religion, then why not citizenship? I have had talks with the US about ending my citizenship, but they are only willing to recognize this as a response to me being a citizen of yet another nation. The more radical option seems to be to de-couple governments from geography, which seems to offer more possibilities.

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