Freak-Outs, Traitors, and Patriots

I suppose I could join the rest of the blogosphere today and throw in my two cents’ worth (now actually valued at about .012 cents) on the aborted bailout and who are the bigger jerks (Pelosi gets at least a few votes, I’m sure, though I agree with Barney Frank on the thin-skinned GOPers who bolted).

In happer times - before Monday

In happier times - before Monday

No, I can’t opine, because I’m doing something more American: freaking out over how this will affect me.

How do we afford the trip to Alaska, the move back to CT, the wife giving up her good job, buying a house, etc., in the face of this? What about my crisis, damnit?

Hmm? You say I’m still better off than 95% of my fellow citizens on a day-to-day basis, and the trip is months away, and things could get better? So, you add, lighten up already. Ah, but you see, it is unmitigated angst that fuels the crisis, that keeps the brain whirling, creating the few shrapnel-like shreds of intelligible ideas that provide fodder for the posts.

I did, however, take a few moments from the freak-out to consider another topic. My job leads me to make many random searches on an average day, and today I googled the word traitor. I was semi-stunned by the number of hits that came back, mostly from blogs, that bandied that word about so cavalierly. I think the partisan rancor of the Conservative Era (dating to Reagan? Goldwater? McCarthy? Coolidge?) has led to this, and it’s really stupid. Do you people, from both the left and right, really know what the word means? It does not mean that any group or politician who opposes your viewpoint is deliberately trying to weaken the country to its enemies’ benefit, or kill its leaders (a rough definition of the word).

People, get a grip! If you do think your political adversaries, from either of the two major political parties, is that nefarious, you have been drinking too long and deep from the cup of the paranoid style (see Richard Hofstadter). Yeah, it’s easy to demonize your opponent (something Rove and Co. have done too well) for political gain. But some of the people calling others traitors really seem to believe their “enemies'” are treasonous. One guy called McCain a traitor for being a liar and a political opportunist. Excuse me? Doesn’t that describe everyone at almost every level of U.S. government – and a few million others besides. (If you define political broadly. And I do.)

Treason is a serious crime – the only one defined in the Constitution. A guilty verdict can lead to execution. Let’s try to reserve it for its literal use.

And while I’m getting all steamed here on the subject of words: I’m really starting to bristle every time I hear the word patriot. I’m a patriot, she’s not, we’re more better patriots than you. Of course, the War on Terror has ratcheted up its use, as certain Bushies have tried to paint anyone who does not support their actions as unpatriotic. I just recall the very astute words of Dr. Johnson:

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

So, only a known scoundrel resorts to assessing others’ patriotism or asserting his own as a way to get out of his scoundrelly predicaments. Or when you stoop to playing the patriotism card, you ipso facto become a scoundrel. Either possibility is none to flattering, yes? (Although to be fair, some claim Johnson was only talking about “false” patriotism. And the litmus test is…?)

Let’s assume that we’re all lovers of our country. We just show that love in different ways. Some say, “My country (or president), right or wrong.” Others say, “Let’s talk about what right and wrong mean. And follow the Constitution, cuz it’s a pretty neat thing.” And remember Johnson’s dictum the next time you hear someone throwing around the “p word.” Unless you already know he’s a damn traitor.

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~ by mburgan on September 30, 2008.

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