I’ve been thinking for a long time about the kinds of anger and hate I discussed in yesterday’s post. As I’ve written before on the blog, CCVM didn’t invent this. For at least 20 years now, people like Rush Limbaugh have propagated this kind of attitude, and the work of conservative pundits like Ann Coulter, Thomas Sowell and Michael Savage have capitalized on it.
As I commented to armyanimaldoctor yesterday, I’m not terribly interested in understanding or sorting out the psyches of the hate-filled–even if I thought I could. Yes, as somebody who studies and teaches rhetoric for a living, I realize it’s important to understand an audience you might need or want to persuade. But in this situation, members of the Sheepdogs and CCVM just aren’t part of that audience. There’s nothing I can say to them, or they to me, that’s going to convince anybody to change our minds.
With that said, I do think it’s important to talk about their claim that they’re the “true patriots.” No they aren’t. Not that they aren’t patriotic–they seem to believe, at least, that they’re working for the good of the country. But they don’t get to own the term “patriotism” just because they say they do. They have no right to determine or make declarations about other people’s intentions; they have no right to silence people they disagree with simply because they disagree.
Or put another way: we can’t stop them from hating us. Armyanimaldoctor makes quites clear that he hates us, and I have to imagine he’s not alone. But hate isn’t patriotism. In fact, I believe it’s exactly the opposite. What CCVM practices isn’t patriotism; it’s hate-triotism. Clearly, they no respect for the freedoms that many of them (those who have actually done military service) say they risked their lives for. Clearly they have no respect for people who don’t blindly subscribe to their culture of fear and violence. Patriotism is about loving your country, not hating it. It’s about loving your fellow citizens, whatever disagreements you might have with them, not hating them. It’s about loving the exercise of freedom, not hating it.
I can understand, on some abstract level, how somebody who has seen combat might resent (or even hate) anybody who thinks war is wrong. And that’s their right. But that’s not patriotism. And it’s wrong for them to shroud their own, individual, psychological responses to their combat experiences in American flags. They don’t own our country; their combat experiences don’t give them any right to assert moral superiority over anybody else. Combat experience gives them two claims I can’t make for myself: (1) they have the courage to stare down the barrel of a gun (in either direction), which I don’t have; and (2) the very specific type of discipline, which I’m glad I don’t have, that comes from being soldiers. That’s all they get. In return, they should be compensated fairly and well taken care of when their service ends. They should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to monopolize claims to patriotism. And they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to do so simply because they hate people who disagree with them.
There are lots of ways to be patriotic, and most of them don’t require military service or combat experience. And the courage to face danger and death doesn’t authorize military members to decide how freedom gets taken up and used in our own country. Thanks for your service, but until there’s a military coup, you’re not in charge here. Hate me all you want, but as long as we live under a civilian government, that’s all you get.