This morning, Digby wrote a few choice words about what she rightly calls, The New “Blame America First Crowd.” It follows from an interview with Douglas MacKinnon about his recent book, The Secessionist States of America: the Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values Country… Now. He wants to found a new country called “Reagan.” Digby quoted him arguing that the Civil War was illegal, and that Lincoln went to war because the “North realized very quickly that it could not survive economically without the power of the South.” That’s a thigh-slapper! The South had largely missed the industrial revolution because of its reliance on slaves. It was an economic backwater then and to a large extent remains one to this day.
But the point of Digby’s article isn’t that MacKinnon is delusional; it is that MacKinnon, like so many on the far right, hates America. People like him love “America,” of course. “America” is some ideal that they have in their minds in which everyone agrees with them and they are never taxed, yet the Social Security checks keep coming. Mostly, “America” is a big deal in areas where people get a lot more from the federal government than they pay. But most of all, America constantly and always disappoints “America.”
Digby expressed my frustration perfectly:
It’s fine with me if they hate America. Everyone has the right to do that if they choose. But it would be nice if they could be the tiniest bit consistent about this. When the left complains about American policy it is accused of being un-American and called traitors to their country by these same people. And yet when they don’t like American policies they can call for secession and maintain their reputations as All American Patriots at the same time.
In fact from now on I’m going to refer to every right winger who is mad about abortion rights or marriage equality or high taxes the “blame America first crowd” because they have earned that title as honestly as any lefty who complains about America’s foreign policy or criminal justice inequities.
It is extremely weird that we on the left have been labeled un-American when all we want are marginal changes to the current state of things. On the right, they are quite explicit that their patriotism is entirely dependent upon America doing exactly what they want. And despite what many people think, this is not a new phenomenon. It was true at least as far back as the 1950s. The most striking thing in Claire Conner’s Wrapped in the Flag is how often the people at that time repeated what is now the clarion call of the Tea Party, “Take our country back!” The implication is that America as it actually exists is invalid.
What it really all comes down to is that we liberals are supposedly wrong because we complain about foreign policy. But you see, this is part of the whole “America” love problem. Part of the conservative love of “America” depends upon the country being able to do whatever it wants militarily. This is why despite the US spending almost as much as the entire word combined on the military, conservatives claim that we must spend more on the military. The point, however, is that liberals are blaming “America” because we are against fascism and imperialism.
Conservatives think they are the arbiters of what America is all about. Liberals do not share in that delusion. In fact, liberals are quite explicit in thinking that there is a battle for the soul of America. So when a conservative bloviates about how abortion should be illegal, liberals may disagree, but they don’t claim the country wouldn’t be America if Roe v Wade were overturned. It’s all about purity, which is a well established conservative obsession. And this is what allows conservatives to claim that liberals hate America, when it is the conservatives who are always wanting to separate from the country. They care about “America,” and “America” only exists in their minds.