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Patriotism vs. chomskyism

Posted by Richard on July 14, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I saw on Instapundit that Eric S. Raymond had started blogging again. I promptly added Armed and Dangerous to my blog roll and made a mental note to post something about Raymond, but haven't gotten around to it. Well, now I have. The reason is Raymond's post, Patriotism and its pathologies.

On July 3, I observed:

The left sneers at the idea of American exceptionalism. But America is special. Unlike other nations, it's not based on geography, race, culture, or accidents of history. It's based on a set of ideas.

Saying that you love America while you work to fundamentally change it and discard the ideas on which it was founded is completely bogus. To really love America, you must love those ideas. That's true American patriotism.

Raymond's post deals with this issue at length, and brilliantly. After pointing out how and why American patriotism is different from, say, Danish patriotism, Raymond notes that:

Embedded deep in the American model of patriotism is the notion that it may be expressed by a passionate determination to reform or even completely upend American institutions in service to the ideals behind them. …

I respect that tradition of patriotism by dissent because I am part of it. I’m both an American patriot and a libertarian anarchist. I both love my country and would cheerfully abolish its government and many of its laws as soon as practically possible, in service of a higher loyalty to individual liberty; “Where liberty dwells, there is my country”. …

But patriotism by dissent can take a much stranger turn. An influential minority of Americans now behave as though loving their country as it might be in the imagined future, where everything they don’t like about it is fixed, excludes loving their country as it actually is!

At its extreme, patriotism by dissent becomes a kind of anti-patriotism in which dedication to an imagined America-that-might-be produces actual, destructive hatred of America as it is and has been. Unreasoning, extreme patriotism is sometimes called “chauvinism”, after the Napoleonic French officer Nicolas Chauvin; for this kind of anti-patriotism I shall analogously coin the label “chomskyism”, after a well-known U.S. radical who appears to embody it.

 Chomskyism — perfect! Read the whole thing. If you have time, read the comments, too. There are some very good ones, including a few from Raymond.

BTW, you do know that Raymond wrote the Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto, right? If you're for some reason unfamiliar with it, click the AIM icon in my right sidebar. 

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