Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Don't push too hard, my friend.

Happy Fourth, comrades! It appears Alex Jones had it wrong and we aren't taking over the country today, leaving everyone free to celebrate in their own way.  Since for me every day is already a celebration of America -- that big, gorgeous, clapped-out zombie! -- this Independence Day I sing the Megan McArdle. The Washington Post columnist is really gunning for that Peggy Noonan Chair of Applied Patriotic Bullshit, and yesterday not only published an anti-Roe-v.-Wade column -- further proof that libertarianism is strictly for dudes, and ably dismantled in this Scott Lemieux thread -- but emitted the worst 4th of July hot dog since Ted Cruz took the occasion to tell his constituents that Harvard Law is full of communists.

McArdle's column is about the flag and the National Anthem. Unlike the Harvard Law communists, she's in favor of them. But she laments the struggle over the Anthem, which is the fault of Bothsides, cousin of Notme and Ida Know. Some think kneeling during the Anthem is "a near cousin to treason." Others hold "lengthy debates" over "whether the third verse of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' was racist," the big sillies! Room for Debate, but surely We Can All Agree that that third set of shadowy figures who "suggested that perhaps we should just stop playing the national anthem at sporting events" -- which is the new Abolish ICE -- are definitely N.G. and "rather shockingly naive about what it takes to hold a country together." The non-naive view, apparently, is that we need flags and anthems or Thus Falls The Republic.
“Nationalism” has become a dirty word in the modern era, having become inextricably associated with repression of minorities and imperialist ambition. We’ve forgotten that the nationalists actually did start out in the 19th century with a worthy and difficult project: persuading a large group of people to think of themselves as a single unit.
You may wonder what the hell she's talking about. The country has from the beginning been united by wars and, and when none can be provided, whispers of foreign intrigue. Every general from the War of 1812 onward who distinguished himself in battle has become an automatic Presidential contender -- until the modern era, when our military adventures became so obviously insane that the most hawkish members of the electorate now spit on a war hero and vote in a draft-dodger. If you don't know history, at least think of President Flightsuit and Mission Accomplished.

But wondering what McArdle's talking about is a waste of time -- she doesn't really have arguments, just routines and sub-routines. For the Owning the Libs routine, for example, in this case she says sure, nationalism got a bad rap because of nationalists -- not like that could happen again! -- but liberals who don't like white nationalism are nonetheless constantly and hypocritically  "engaging in nationalist projects" like the welfare state, checkmate! Libs like bread and roses, McArdle's masses like blood and soil -- same diff, really. Plus the "groupish instinct" that transubstantiated into the nation-state "evolved in the African plains" -- see, Africa! And you guys claim to like black people. In conclusion:
If we are to fight our way back from this soft civil war, we will need a muscular patriotism that focuses us on our commonalities instead of our differences.
I wonder if her echo of "muscular Christianity" is conscious?
Of course, such a patriotism must not be either imperialist nor racialized. Which means we desperately need the flag, and the anthem, and all the other common symbols that are light on politics or military fetishism and heavy on symbolism.
Set aside the idea that "the flag, and the anthem" are "light on politics or military fetishism" -- such an absurdity after decades of flag pin patriotism and long, painful hours of Toby Keith that I doubt even McArdle believes what she's saying  -- what would the "other common symbols" be? The game pieces in Monopoly? Fonzie's leather jacket? Manny, Moe and Jack?
We need much more of them, rather than much less — constant reminders that we are groupish, and that our group consists of 328 million fellow Americans with whom we share a country and a creed, a song and a flag, and the deep sense of mutual obligation that all these things imply.
Call me commie, but I don't think the flag and anthem are gonna do it. A good start, though, would be a general acknowledgement that we got this day off because some guys -- some of whose values have, to put it bluntly, not aged well, and which most of us have abandoned --  nonetheless took seriously some Enlightenment ideas of freedom that have indeed worn and do serve us well, and may yet be our bulwark against tyranny, foreign and domestic. Grill and chill to that, my friends, and choose your own anthem; my own's up top here: If you hate us, you just don't know what you're sayin'.

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