Thursday, January 22, 2009

Patriotism Is Not A Cult (Updated)

In today's Best of the Web James Taranto writes about the adulation Obama is receiving from Canadians and from celebrities in the US, leading him to draw a distinction in defining the much maligned--and now suddenly acceptable--word 'patriotism':
Patriotism is the love of one's country, not a devotion to any particular officeholder. We would venture to say that patriotism demands a degree of respect for the presidency, and for the man who holds the office at any given time, whether or not one admires the president or finds his policies congenial.

Obama is our president too, and we wish him well. But this cult phenomenon is the flip side of the hatred that the left too often displayed during the Bush years. As long as it remains the province of a political fringe, and as long as Obama is wise enough not to let it go to its head, it is likely to be harmless. But history offers numerous cautionary tales about the dangers of treating politicians as objects of worship. [emphasis added]
Historically, this kind of political cult worship is a global phenomenon that has been as prevalent on the right as on the left. But it just seems so divorced from reality, and as extreme as the BDS that we have had to put up with for 8 years--leading me to agree with Tom Maguire at Just One Minute:
I am just hoping that mild disillusionment with the new regime sets in quickly because I can't endure four years of this.
I would settle for a simple sense of reality, but at this point that is too much to hope for--and besides, according to one expert we are in for eight years of Obama. And who knows, maybe even more!

UPDATED: After all, Maguire's disillusionment might never set in:
But it is also possible that this personality cult may endure and fructify, especially if the news media continue to suspend critical analysis of Obama’s long-held views and programs. Also, one can ask whether he will choose to use, to cultish ends, the new, well-funded organization, Organizing for America, which he has fashioned from his vast grass-roots political machinery, and which is described in the Los Angeles Times as “an unprecedented standing political army that will await orders from a president.”
While true patriotism inspires citizens to acts of self-sacrifice, it remains to be seen what this version of 'patriotism' will inspire people to do now that the object of their affection has taken office.

One thing patriotism is not is the superficial demonstration of affection for a leader--it is more than a kumbaya moment. And frankly--teaching kids to love their leader instead of their country scares me.


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1 comment:

Peter Verkooijen said...

"Historically, this kind of political cult worship is a global phenomenon that has been as prevalent on the right as on the left ..."

This type of leadership cult is almost exclusive associated with socialism. Or any political movement that believes they can solve all society's problems if everybody would just get behind The Plan.

Mussolini was editor-in-chief of a socialist party newspaper. Fascism was a movement driven by a younger generation of socialists in response to the old guard selling out to liberal democracy and the civil war in the Soviet Union.

Hitler was a national socialist = socialism in national unity. The leader becomes the symbol of that unity. Any opposition will be coopted or crushed.

FA Hayek's Road to Serfdom and George Orwell's 1984 described the process after the war.