Watching what is going on now in our country is at once fascinating and terrifying.
I thought I knew what “patriotism” meant. I thought that an American patriot put America first, truly, including the tenets of its US Constitution. Being a patriot for me never meant that a person was anti-racist or anti-sexist, or was, in fact, interested in steering away from any kind of discrimination. But for me, one who waved the flag meant that they believed in the basic tenets of the Constitution, including the basic freedoms.
In the past, a patriot was virulently against Communism. The Soviet Union was America’s enemy and everyone knew it. To even give a hint of being all right with communism was a death knell.
But surprisingly, more than a few Americans seem not to care about communism or about its threat to democracy. More than a few Americans are unconcerned about the intrusion into the heart and core of our democracy by a former KGB agent named Vladimir Putin. It is breathtaking to watch the silence of the United States Congress, letting the current president cozy up to Russia with little more than a sniff.
Russia has an agenda. Russia wants to be recognized as a world power and not a pariah, and under the leadership of Putin, it is running its agenda in this country with disturbing ease. That the Congress has said nothing and done even less, that it does not demand that the president stop weakening the very fiber of this country, is astounding. The comfort I had in the three legislative branches of government being in place to check unbridled power is all but gone. It feels like we are headed toward an authoritarian government, and the Congress, which could stop it, is not doing its job.
Where are the patriots?
The small group of very wealthy people who are in power seem blind to history, or if they see and know history, they do not care about it. They are running roughshod even over the “base” that elected the president into office, as they push for policies which will make life most difficult for that very group of Americans. How nobody in Congress is talking about that, showing blatant disregard for the millions, for example, who will lose health care if the president’s health care bill gets through the Senate is beyond comprehension. These people purport to be religious people, specifically Christian, and yet they are pushing policies which leave “the least of these,” whom Jesus the Christ said we should take care of, out of the ring in which the fight for justice is being waged.
The White House is filled with old, angry white men primarily, who resent the browning of America. Their resentment is not new; there was a similar backlash against “globalization” in the 1930s. Anti-immigration sentiment back then led to the passage of anti- immigration laws which would today appall many of us. When the report came out that by 2030, America would no longer be a “white” nation put the fire underneath the bigots, the white nationalists, and many non-politicians for whom the thought of not being in the majority was painful and frightening.
It seems that what is going on, fueled by white working class Americans who are angry that they have been ignored, is a fight which has at its roots the most vile racism and bigotry. The leaders of our nation are virtually silent about white nationalists taking their anger out on people of color – white domestic terrorist activity – even as they decry the terrorism carried out by ISIS.
What also seems to be going on is toxic capitalism. The very rich have abandoned allegiance to America and have decided to become best friends with Russia, our enemy, for the sake of making more money. Patriotism be damned.
Tom Snyder the Yale history professor who wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, said that America has about a year to stop the path toward tyranny on which America is now traveling. The impotent Congress will not stop what is going on; it is not clear that the United States Supreme Court will be much more of a protector of America and her Constitution, all the vitriol about caring about that document notwithstanding, and the Executive Branch is filled with angry, old, racist white men who want America to be as white and male as can be.
Patriotism as we know it is gone. Or maybe the issue is that I never really understood what patriotism really was in the first place.
A candid observation …