Monday, October 17, 2011

One Man's Perspective on Love of Country

Ta-Nehisi Coates blogs for The Atlantic.  He's one of Andrew's favorite writers.  With this post, I join Andrew and will now feature his blog site on my website.  So frequently, he soberly and solemnly reflects on his race and its relation to his country.  I wish his voice could be duplicated across the ideological spectrum.

As we have dual, competing movements in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, both of whom proclaim their love for America and a sincere desire to preserve what's great about it, Coates brings a refreshing perspective as a black man who has transcended his nationalistic and radical beginnings and, finding himself as socially mobile as any white man with his job, tries to put into words what being a patriot actually means:
I think of my parents born into a socially engineered poverty, and I think of their children enjoying the fruits (social mobility) garnered by the nonviolent, democratic assault on that social engineering. And then I consider that for centuries, over the entire world, if your parents were peasants, you were a peasant, as were your children.

I think it is proper to be proud of that change. I would not argue for a pride that insists America has worked out all of its problems, and evidences that work by exporting its institutions via tank and bomber. I would argue for a studied pride, a gratitude, that understands all that was sacrificed, that we could have easily tilted the other way, that the experiment is still, even now, fragile, and remains in constant need of the lost 19th century concept of improvement.

Contrast this humility, mixing pride with gratitude, with the "America, Fuck Yeah!" crowd that boasts that there's nowhere on earth where a person can start from nothing and become a huge success, and that any flaws in our national character wither away in the shadow of so great an accomplishment as "Democracy," or "Capitalism."  Clearly, in light of these two movements, these two words have vastly different meanings.  On one side, we have a true grass-roots movement, unfunded, young, raw, and with a truly wide-open sense of acceptance that America's best days lie ahead.  On the other side, we have a movement of largely older folks with money, whiter, more religious, who believe that America's gone down the toilet with its values and that we have to "take back" our country and return it to its whiter, more Christian roots (or, in fact, introduce a new era where the strict wall of separation between church and state blurs or even develops wide gaps).
If this country is ever going to transcend the grip of polarization, we all need to wake up to the fact that polarization is what the elite want.  To distract us from democracy and capitalism while they enrich themselves. 

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